MPs urged to act on eviction ‘crisis’

The number of households made homeless after eviction from a privately rented home is now at the highest since records began.

New government figures on homelessness in England show the loss of a private tenancy remains the single biggest cause of homelessness, with over 18,640 households becoming homeless after an eviction from a privately rented home in the last year –  twice as many households as five years ago.

In the last year alone, 42,940 families were accepted as homeless by their local council, rise of 35% over the last five years.

On top of this, English councils dealt with 200,930 requests for help from people on the verge of homelessness in the last year.

Chief executive of Shelter, Campbell Robb, said: “These figures are a heart-breaking reminder of the devastating impact our drastic shortage of affordable homes is having.

“Every day at Shelter we hear from families struggling to keep their heads above water when faced with the double blow of welfare cuts and expensive, unstable private renting, with far too many ultimately losing the battle to stay in their home.

“On top of this, stripped-back budgets and a drought of affordable homes are making it increasingly difficult for overburdened councils to find homeless families anywhere suitable to live.

“But it doesn’t have to be this way. Now is the time for the new government to seize the opportunity to tackle the root cause of this crisis by building homes that people on lower incomes can actually afford to live in. In the meantime, it’s essential that councils receive proper funding to deal with the huge volume of people coming to them for help.”

Crisis chief executive, Jon Sparkes, called on MPs from ‘across the political spectrum’ to support the Homelessness Reduction Bill at its second reading next month with a mass lobby of parliament planned for October 19.

“We must seize this historic opportunity. Homelessness has risen yet again, this time by an appalling 10%, with a total of 15,170 households accepted as homeless between April and June of this year. That’s the equivalent of 168 households hitting crisis point every single day, and the numbers are growing with every month that passes,” he said.

“It isn’t enough to help people at crisis point. We need to prevent them from losing their home in the first place. While we’ve seen a welcome 4% rise in the number of households prevented from becoming homeless, we need much more of this type of action. At the same time, we’ve seen a shocking 10% rise in the number of homeless households who aren’t eligible for help. Something must be done.

“We need a change in the law to prevent more people from losing their home and to make sure all homeless people can get the help they need, while councils need the funding to make this work. Prevention has already been shown to work in Wales, where it has dramatically reduced the need for people to be re-housed.”

The statistics show local housing authorities received 29,790 applications for housing assistance in April to June (Q2) 2016 (excluding those who were ineligible, such as recent arrivals to the UK).

This is 9% higher than in the same quarter of 2015.

Of these 51% were accepted.

Of the remainder:

  • 24% were found not to be homeless
  • 17% were found to be homeless but not in priority need
  • 8% were found to be intentionally homeless and in priority need

Local authorities in England accepted 15,170 households as statutorily homeless in Q2 2016, up 10% compared to the same quarter last year and up 3% from the figure of 14,760 in the previous quarter.

London’s 4,890 accounted for 32% of the England total.

The quarterly number of acceptances peaked in Q3 2003 at 35,770 before falling to a low of 9,430 in Q4 2009.

In the latest quarter the number of acceptances at 15,170 is 58% below the peak (a difference of 20,600), and 61% higher than the low (a difference of 5,740).

The ending of an assured shorthold tenancy with a private landlord was the most common reason for the loss of the last settled home in Q2 2016.

This represents 32% (4,880 households) of all acceptances in England and 41% of acceptances (2,000 households) in London.

The end of an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) has been an increasingly common cause of loss of last home over the last six years, rising from a low of 1,060 households in Q4 2009 (11% of all cases) to 4,880 in Q2 2016 (32% of cases) – a rise of 3,820.

By comparison, the rise in acceptances for all other reasons between Q4 2009 and Q2 2016 was 1,920.

This indicates that affordability is an increasingly significant issue, as more households facing the end of a private tenancy are unable to find an alternative without assistance.

The increase in the end of tenancies is also related to the expansion of the private rented sector, which has doubled in size (since 2002) and now houses 4.3 million households (2015/16).

Most new acceptances are placed in temporary accommodation.

This was the outcome for 62% (9,490) of the acceptances during the quarter. In 29% of cases (4,460) the household was provisionally able to remain in their existing accommodation to await an offer of alternative accommodation.

Some households accepted during Q2 2016 moved into settled accommodation by the end of the quarter and 5% of all acceptances (770) were given a secure tenancy in local authority or private registered social landlord.

In addition to such tenancies, under the Localism Act 2011 local authorities were given the power to discharge their homeless duty by making an offer in the private rented sector; 110 households (1%) accepted such an offer and 20 rejected one.

For households accepted prior to changes made in the Localism Act, local authorities can make a qualifying offer of an assured shorthold tenancy which the applicant can refuse – 40 households (less than 1%) accepted such an offer.

The number of households in temporary accommodation arranged by local authorities under homelessness legislation on 30 June 2016 was 73,120.

This was 9% higher than a year earlier and up 52% on the low of 48,010 on 31 December 2010.

In London, the number of households in temporary accommodation at 30 June 2016 was 52,820, 72% of the total England figure.

Comparing the number of households in temporary accommodation to the population size in an area gives a measure of its use across England.

In England there were 3.15 households living in temporary accommodation per 1,000 households at the end of June 2016.

There were 14.72 cases per thousand households in London and 1.03 cases per thousand households in the rest of England.

Of the 73,120 households in temporary accommodation on 30 June 2016, 58,180 included dependent children and/or a pregnant woman (within which there were 114,930 children or expected children).

The average number of children in those households in temporary accommodation with children is 2.0.

Of the 58,180 households with children, 50,910 (88%) were in self-contained accommodation.

There were 6,520 households in bed and breakfast style accommodation as at 30 June 2016.

Of these 3,390 (52%) had dependent children or expected children of which 1,140 had been resident for more than 6 weeks.

Of the 73,120 households in temporary accommodation on 30 June 2016, 20,660 (28%) were in accommodation in another local authority district.

This is an increase of 17%, from 17,640 at the same date last year (26% of the total).

Of the 20,660 accommodated in another local authority district, 18,700 were from London authorities (91% of the England total).

This is an increase of 14% from the same date last year when 16,370 such households were placed by London authorities.

In Q2 2016 a main homelessness duty was ended for 10,060 households who had previously been in temporary accommodation or had remained, with consent, in their existing accommodation while awaiting the provision of alternative accommodation.

This is an 8% increase from the previous quarter and a 2% fall from the same quarter in 2015.

Of these households, 6,540 (65%) were provided with settled accommodation by accepting a “Part 6” offer of a tenancy in local authority or housing authority accommodation, an increase of 1% on the figure of 6,460 in the previous quarter.

A further 450 refused such an offer.

Overall, 480 households (5%) accepted an offer of settled rented accommodation in the private sector, made under the Localism Act power, up from 330 in the previous quarter, and 50 households rejected such an offer.

There were 500 households (5%) which became intentionally homeless from temporary accommodation while 1,300 households (13%) voluntarily ceased to occupy temporary accommodation.

In England, 63% of those leaving temporary accommodation between 1 April and 30 June 2016 did so less than six months after acceptance, and 78% less than a year after acceptance.

The corresponding percentages for London were 36% and 51%.

There were 54,910 successful cases of homelessness prevention or relief outside the statutory homelessness framework in England during Q2 2016, up 5% on 52,380 in the same quarter of 2015.

Of the total cases, 50,990 (93%) were preventions and 3,910 (7%) were cases of relief.

Of the prevention outcomes, 27,130 (53%) were able to remain in their existing home, whilst 23,860 households (47%) were assisted to obtain alternative accommodation.

Terrie Alafat CBE, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, said: “The number of acceptances and households in temporary accommodation is up again and it is particularly concerning that those living in bed and breakfast accommodation for longer than the legal limit of six weeks went up 18% in the last quarter alone. These are trends we cannot ignore.

“It is clear the commitment of local authorities to give homeless people the support they need has never diminished and it is encouraging to see the number of households local authorities took action to prevent from being homeless went up by 4 per cent compared to the last quarter.

“Though their commitment hasn’t waned it is clear local authorities don’t have the resource and support they need to tackle homelessness.

“This is compounded by a shortage of affordable housing which the latest figures once again demonstrate is by far the most significant route out of homelessness for the majority of households.

“What we desperately need is a long-term strategy which includes a commitment to give local authorities the support they need and recognises building more homes people can afford will be absolutely central to making sure homeless people get the help they need.”

Cllr Martin Tett, Housing spokesman for the Local Government Association, said: “Councils want to help everyone at risk of homelessness and support those who are homeless into accommodation as soon as possible. Faced with significant cuts to their budgets, falling social housing availability and welfare reforms, it is clear councils cannot tackle this challenge alone.

“Simply rushing through extensive new duties on stretched councils already doing everything they can to prevent and solve homelessness risks unintended consequences for those people that we are all trying to help. Any new duties must be fully thought through, deliverable, and fully funded.

“There is an urgent need to address the factors driving up homelessness, the availability of suitable housing and rents spiralling above household incomes, and to gear all public services to respond to the personal needs of every individual at risk of homelessness or who is homeless.

“Councils are best placed to lead the local effort but need to be able to bring together local housing, health, justice, welfare and employment partners to prevent and resolve homelessness.

“As a third of new homelessness cases now emerge from a private tenancy ending, homes for affordable and social rent are crucial to keep rents low and prevent homelessness. However, the availability of social rented council housing has halved since 1994, dropping from 3.6 million properties to 1.6 million properties in 2016.

“That is why giving councils the powers and funding to resume their historic role as a major builder of affordable homes is also vital to end homelessness.”

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