The majority of local councils in England are struggling to find stable housing for homeless people in their area, leaving them forced to place more and more people in unstable temporary accommodation.
A new report from the charities Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found 70 per cent of councils had difficulties finding social housing for homeless people last year, while 89 per cent reported difficulties in finding private rented accommodation. As a result many councils have been forced to place more homeless people in temporary accommodation, including Bed & Breakfast hotels and short-stay hostels, leading to urgent calls for more permanent and genuinely affordable homes to be built. The report warns that 78,000 homeless households in England are in temporary accommodation and, if current trends continue, more than 100,000 households will be trapped in temporary accommodation by 2020.
The Homelessness Monitor: England – an annual independent study funded by Crisis and JRF and carried out by Heriot-Watt University, is the most comprehensive homelessness study of its kind. Published every year since 2011, it includes a national survey of councils, statistical analysis, and in-depth interviews with council and national government representatives and charities working with homeless people. Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick, the report’s lead author, said: “This year’s Homelessness Monitor has, again, provided evidence of the profound, cumulative and adverse impact of welfare reform on access to housing for low-income groups, especially in high-value markets. “The options are narrowing for local authorities charged with preventing and resolving homelessness, as benefit-reliant households are entirely priced out of the private rented sector in some parts of the country. At the same time, homeless people’s access to a diminishing pool of social tenancies is increasingly constrained by landlord nervousness about letting to households whose incomes are now so very low that even properties let at social rents can be unaffordable to them.” The report found that the problem of rising homelessness pressures is not limited to London. 40 per cent of councils in London said the number of people seeking help from their homelessness services had risen over the last year, compared to 76 per cent in the Midlands, 70 per cent in the south and 62 per cent in the north.
Crisis and JRF say more must be done to solve the problem – in particular that the Government must build more social housing and ensure that homeless people can access it. In the report, the councils reported a growing reluctance among landlords to rent to people on welfare. The charities welcome the Government’s recent actions on homelessness, including the pledge to end rough sleeping by 2027 and the establishment of the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Implementation Taskforce, but more must be done urgently. Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “It’s truly terrible that, across England, councils are finding it increasingly difficult to find homeless people somewhere to live. This means ever more people are ending up trapped in B&Bs and hostels, with no stability and often in cramped conditions. “Our report makes it clear that, unless we take action as a society, this problem will only keep getting worse. Homelessness is not inevitable and our research has shown how it can become a thing of the past.”
Campbell Robb, chief executive of JRF, said: “It is simply unacceptable that more and more people face the misery and insecurity of living in bed and breakfasts and other forms of temporary accommodation in England today. “We have a shared responsibility to ensure everyone can access a decent and safe home, especially at times of crisis in people’s lives. High housing costs, low pay and insecure work are locking people in poverty restricting their choices: with councils finding it harder to help, more families are being forced into temporary accommodation. This is not right. “A failure by successive Governments to build enough genuinely affordable homes has contributed to this situation. The Government has recognised the problem with its Homelessness Reduction Act, and the forthcoming social housing green paper is an opportunity to commit to building the low-cost rented homes we need to release families from the grip of poverty.”
By Patrick Mooney, editor