England: Five per cent jump in homelessness ‘extremely worrying’

Gavin Smart

The number of households accepted as homeless across England has increased by five per cent, according to official figures.

Statistics released today by the Department for Communities and Local Government show that 13,850 households were accepted as homeless between 1 April and 30 June 2015, up five per cent compared with the same quarter in 2015.

On 30 June 2015 there were 5,630 households living in bed and breakfast accommodation, up 23 per cent from 4,590 a year earlier. That figures includes 2,660 families with children - an increase of 25 per cent from 2,130 on 30 June 2014.

Of the 66,980 households in temporary accommodation on 30 June 2015, 17,640 were in accommodation in another local authority district, up 25 per cent from 14,130 on the same date last year. 16,370 (93 per cent) were from London authorities, an increase of 24 per cent from 13,170 on 30 June 2014.

At 30 per cent of all cases, the end of a private tenancy continues to be the most common reason for households becoming homeless. That proportion has jumped from 11 per cent of all cases in 2009-10 to 29 per cent in 2014-15.

Gavin Smart, deputy chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, said it was “extremely worrying” to see an increase in the total number of homeless households.

He added: “We are particularly concerned about the big jump in the number of people trapped in bed and breakfast accommodation, including more than 2,500 families with children.

“This type of accommodation is often very poor quality and highly unsuitable, especially for families.

“There has also been a big rise in the number of households placed outside their local authority district, which may be down to the increasing cost of housing, especially in London. The cost of housing can make it difficult for local authorities to find a home for people in the same area, but councils must do everything they can to avoid moving people away from their communities and support networks.”

The end of a private tenancy continues to be most common reason for homelessness. Local authorities now have more freedom to help homeless people by finding them a home in the private rented sector – but welfare reform means private landlords are increasingly reluctant to let to people who claim benefits.

Gavin Smart said the UK government should consider setting up a £100 million fund for councils to support vulnerable people living in the private rented sector.

He added: “The Localism Act was supposed to make it easier for local authorities to help extremely vulnerable people find a home but welfare reform is making it harder. Setting up a fund to support them could help prevent homelessness, give people without a roof over their heads more options and give landlords more confidence to let to people they might previously have seen as ‘higher risk’.”

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis said the rise in homelessness reveals the “desperate state” of private renting sector.

He said: “Homelessness rose by 5 per cent between April and June compared to the same time last year. Nearly a third of these people became homeless following the ending of a private tenancy. This is totally unacceptable and reflects the desperate state of our private rented sector.

“Homelessness has risen by 36 per cent in the last five years. We cannot ignore the reality behind these numbers. Thousands of people across the country are struggling to keep a roof over their heads in a housing market that is no longer fit for purpose, while cuts to housing benefit and homelessness services have left the safety net in tatters.

“Our politicians can and must do something about this. We need housing benefit that actually covers the cost of renting, a much stronger focus on preventing homelessness, and a change in the law so that no one is forced to sleep rough. At the same time, we need decisive action to make the private rented sector more accessible and affordable, along with radical solutions to tackle the severe shortage of affordable homes.”

Jacqui McCluskey, director of policy and communications for Homeless Link, said: “It is extremely concerning to see so many households living in temporary accommodation, especially those containing children. This accommodation is often unsuitable for families and the living conditions can be damaging to people’s well-being.

“Too many people are losing their homes and councils are clearly struggling to support those in housing need. Without urgent action to help prevent people becoming homeless and increasing access to affordable accommodation there is little chance of this situation improving.

“Today’s figures indicate that affordable and stable accommodation remains out of reach for an alarmingly high number of people. We strongly urge the government to take urgent action to ensure that the housing market does not shut out the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.”

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