Homeless figures a ‘national disgrace’

New figures urge sector leaders to call for councils to have enough resources to carry out their duties under the new Homelessness Reduction Act.

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There were 78,180 households in temporary accommodation at the end of June 2017, up 7% on a year earlier, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government statutory homelessness statistics, released today.

Other key statistics include:

  • The number of households accepted as homeless by local authorities in Q2 was 14,400, which is down 1% on the previous quarter, and a decrease of 5% on the same quarter last year. Acceptances made up 52% of total applications.
  • Of the 78,180 households in temporary accommodation:
  • 60,550 included dependent children and/or a pregnant woman
  • 22,050 or 28% are living outside of their local area. This is an increase of 7% on the same period last year.
  • The main cause of homelessness was the end of an assured shorthold tenancy, accounting for 30% of cases in England and 34% in London. This indicates that affordability and the increase in size of the private rented sector remain substantial issues.
  • Local authorities acted to prevent and relieve homelessness for 54,270 households in Q2, down 1% on the same quarter in 2016.

Responding, Chartered Institute of Housing policy and practice officer Faye Greaves, said: “To have so many people homeless in 2017 is quite simply a national disgrace and something we must act on now.

“Although the number of households accepted as homeless has dropped slightly since last year, today’s figures show it has jumped by more than 50% since 2009. That’s partly because of pressures on the housing market but also some of the welfare changes that have come into force over the past few years.

“Our research with the University of Sheffield has shown that the vast majority of councils and housing associations believe government welfare policy is hitting their efforts to tackle homelessness. And as the London Assembly has shown this week, for everyone who goes to their council for help there are likely to be many more ‘hidden homeless’ people sofa surfing and sleeping on public transport for example.

“We are particularly concerned about the continuing rise in the number of households in temporary accommodation, which has soared by a staggering 63% since December 2010. That figure includes thousands of families with children trapped in bed and breakfast accommodation, which is often very poor quality and highly unsuitable.”

CIH is calling on the government to use the Autumn Budget to make sure that councils have the resources they need to carry out their new duties under the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, and also to establish an expanded ‘Housing First’ programme aimed at halving rough sleeping by 2022 and ending it by 2027.

Greaves said: “History tells us that we can reduce or even eliminate homelessness but it does require a co-ordinated approach – that means government investment, funding for affordable housing and a concerted effort across the housing and homelessness sectors.”

Homeless Link’s Chief Executive, Rick Henderson, commented: “A raft of issues is conspiring to cause the homelessness of thousands of people across the country, in a situation that is not improving.

“Yet again we’ve seen the impact that Welfare reform, including the freezing of the Local Housing Allowance (LHA), and the broken housing market is having on the numbers of people at risk of homelessness and losing their homes.

“We must not become desensitised to this serious problem, or forget that these high numbers represent people’s lives in turmoil.

“We can and must act to prevent and end homelessness, and with their party conference less than a week away, the Government must take the opportunity to tackle the reasons why homelessness continues to rise.

“We urge the Government to support the Homelessness Reduction Act with a well-resourced, cross-departmental homelessness strategy, that addresses the root causes of homelessness and achieves noticeable progress for the vulnerable people it affects.”

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