The government’s own figures show that a household became homeless every four minutes in England over the past Brexit-dominated year.
And the new MHCLG stats also show a new generation of young people and families are being hit by the housing emergency, with 56,440 aged 16 to 24 becoming homeless or threatened with homelessness during the same period.
“During a year where Brexit negotiations have totally dominated the political agenda, catastrophic numbers of people have become homeless,” said Shelter chief executive Polly Neate.
“While the housing crisis is out of the spotlight, families with young children are trapped in grim temporary accommodation like B&Bs and shipping containers, and young people feel the damaging effects of growing up in a housing emergency.”
The stats show:
- Young people are disproportionately affected by homelessness – they represent a fifth (21%) of all applicants found to be homeless or threatened with homelessness in the last year, but make up just 14% of the general population
- 22% of households found to be homeless or threatened with homelessness lost their last settled home due to the ending of a private-rented tenancy
- 28% of households found to be homeless or threatened with homelessness were living in a private-rented home – this is the most common type of accommodation to live in at the time of applying for homelessness support
- More than a quarter (27%) of applicants owed a homelessness duty are in work
“Cripplingly expensive private rents, frozen housing benefits, and lengthy waiting lists for social homes are pushing people to the sharp edge of a housing emergency which won’t go away without genuinely affordable homes,” said Neate.
“The government must invest in a new generation of social homes – three million more in 20 years – if they are to pull hundreds of thousands of people out of homelessness.
“And in the meantime, they must urgently increase housing benefit so that it covers at least the bottom third of private rents,” she said.
NHF says its analysis of the stats shows the number of households and families in temporary accommodation reached at an eight-year high.
The number of children living in temporary accommodation has risen to 126,020 – up 83% since its the lowest point in June 2011 – and that’s set to reach the highest level ever recorded as soon as December next year.
Against this, only 5,183 new social homes were built in the last year – down from 35,784 in 2010.
“It is unacceptable that the number of families living in temporary accommodation has been allowed to reach an eight-year high, with no real action to tackle the root of the problem,” said NHF chief executive Kate Henderson.
“Many of these children are being forced to live in hostels and B&Bs with shared facilities and little privacy, and this is having a detrimental effect on their wellbeing and development.
“The government must take urgent action to tackle homelessness, which means urgently building more homes for people on the lowest incomes.
“We know we need to build 145,000 social homes, including 90,000 for social rent each year to house those in need including homeless families.
“To build these, the government must invest £12.8bn each year, specifically for new social housing.”
The number of households classified as homeless in rural towns and villages across England has increased by 85% over the past year – up 45% from 79,715 households in 2018 to 116,001 households in 2019.
That’s a surge of over twice the national increase, rising from 9,312 to 17,212.
CPRE has highlighted what it calls the hidden consequences of becoming homeless in a market town or village – where support services for those in need tend to be fewer and further between than in larger urban areas.
An analysis by CPRE earlier this year showed that there are now 173,584 families on council waiting lists for social housing in rural authorities.
However, just 1,336 homes for social rent were built in those areas last year.
If that rate of building were to continue, it would take 130 years to meet the current backlog on rural social housing waiting lists alone.
“The alarming rise in homelessness right across the country is a catastrophic demonstration of how government housing policies have failed society as a whole, and rural areas in particular,” said CPRE housing campaigner Lois Lane.
‘The government must urgently increase the proportion of housing spending used to fund the construction of social homes for rent, with funding for rural areas ring-fenced in line with the proportion of the population who live there.”
In June this year, CPRE, in a coalition of housing groups and charities – including the National Housing Federation, Shelter and Crisis – called on the government to invest £12.8bn a year in housing funding over the next 10 years.
The investment was pitched as providing 1.45 million social homes to rent and shared ownership properties to buy across the country.
On today’s release of statistics, the Local Government Association’s housing spokesman, Cllr David Renard, said that it’s a lack of affordable housing that has left many councils struggling to cope with the rising numbers seeking help.
“We were pleased government listened to our call for more homelessness funding in the Spending Round, and this will help in the year ahead,” he said.
“However, a long-term sustainable funding solution is needed if we are to reduce homelessness.
“Councils also need powers to invest in new homes for those that need them. We need urgent reform to the Right To Buy scheme, which enables councils to keep all sales receipts and set discounts locally.
“Government also needs to adapt welfare reforms to protect families at risk of becoming homeless.”