On any given night in England, 26,000 single people are facing homelessness across the country. Most of them have very few support needs and just can’t find a home, according to Crisis, the national charity for homeless people.
The charity’s new research shows that this group of homeless people – some of whom are excluded from council housing registers due to reasons such as past rent arrears – are ending up trapped in a cycle of homelessness or stuck in temporary shelter for months, or even years on end, as the social housing shortage and sky-high renting costs leave them with no place to call home.
The report Moving On: Improving access for single homeless people in England, looks at the barriers to housing encountered by adults who typically fall outside the protection of the current homelessness legislation because they are deemed low priority.
It finds that this group’s access to social housing has been declining each year, and while many have no acute support needs, those living on the lowest incomes face significant challenges getting access to housing of any sort.
Crisis is calling on the government to end councils’ use of blanket bans that stop people in housing need for registering for housing. Reasons for these exclusions include having insufficient local connection to an area, a history of rent arrears or antisocial behaviour.
The charity says new social housing funding announced by the government this week will help, but that rules on housing eligibility must be changed to stop some homeless people being prevented from joining housing registers.
As the size of the social rented sector continues to shrink, social lettings to single homeless people in England have dropped by a third from 19,000 a year in 2007-08 to just 13,000 in 2015-16, according to the report. At the same time, single homeless people face a range of exclusions from social housing registers in some council areas.
Unable to access social housing, private renting often becomes the only option available to this group of people, however, according to the report many landlords are reluctant to let properties to this group. Added to this, as the bite of recent welfare reforms take hold, such as reduced availability of Housing Benefit, many are unable to afford the up-front costs and rent demands of the few available options in the private rented sector, leaving many ‘trapped with no way out of homelessness’, the report says.
Crisis is now urging the government to adopt a joined-up approach to reform of policy on access to housing, rent setting, housing supply and the role of Housing Benefit, as well as ensuring all local authorities and housing providers play a role in providing a supply of homes for those on the lowest incomes.
Crisis is calling on the government to:
- Scrap blanket housing register exclusions which mean some people in housing need can’t even register for housing
- Boost housing supply by enabling councils or other social housing providers to build new homes at social rent level
- Require the Homelessness Reduction Taskforce to set targets for the adequate supply of housing for single homeless people
- Fund Help to Rent projects to support single homeless tenants and assure landlords.
Jon Sparkes, chief executive at Crisis, said: “As the supply of social housing in England has shrunk, and fewer new tenants get access to social rented housing, the effect on single homeless people has been devastating.
“To make matter worse, restricted eligibility for social housing is trapping more and more people in a cycle of homelessness that they have no route out of, and this just isn’t right.
“We know that homelessness is not inevitable. With the right assistance, single homeless people can successfully secure a home to help them rebuild their lives. That’s why we’re calling on the government to end the use of blanket restrictions that mean people who desperately need a home aren’t denied the help they need.
“We’re glad to see that the government has announced an initiative to build more social housing – after a long-term lack of investment – this announcement couldn’t have come soon enough. But we must make sure that enough of these homes are built to truly address our homelessness crisis, and to ensure people in the most vulnerable circumstances have access to them.
“We’re ready to work with the government to make this work for everyone who needs it most.”
- The number of single people who experience homelessness in England each year is around 200,000, with the average number of single people experiencing some form of homelessness on any one night estimated to be 77,000
- Around two-thirds of single homeless people have support needs that mean their immediate destination should be some form of housing with tailored support such as supported housing or a Housing First solution. The rest have no acute support needs and the primary barrier to ending their homelessness is housing
- 75,000 single people with low or no support needs experience homelessness each year while the average number of single people with low or no support needs who are homeless on any one night is 26,000
- Social lettings to single homeless people in England fell from 19,000 a year in 2007-08 to just 13,000 in 2015-16
- As the social rented sector shrinks, the private rented sector has doubled its share of households from 10 to 20% in less than 20 years – but homeless people face barriers trying to access private housing
- This drop is due to changes in policy on the allocation of social housing, alongside problems caused by the reducing affordability of social housing, restrictions on Housing Benefit entitlement, and housing providers’ response to these.
Responding to the report, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, Terrie Alafat, said:
“The new investment in affordable social rented homes announced by the government this week is welcome, but this report highlights once again just how far we still have to go.
“The scale of homelessness is a national disgrace and we have to act now.
“We have reduced homelessness significantly before and we can do it again but we need a strategic, cross-departmental approach from the government and we need support for councils to deliver their new duties under the Homelessness Reduction Act.”