More than 100,000 homeless households to be trapped in temporary accommodation by 2020, warns report

Tens of thousands more families will be forced to live in B&Bs, hostels and other forms of temporary housing across England over next two years if current homelessness trends continue

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Thursday 12 April 2018 00:04 BST
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Homeless family living in an emergency hostel.
Homeless family living in an emergency hostel.

Tens of thousands more families will be trapped in temporary accommodation across England over the next two years if current homelessness trends continue, a report has warned.

More than 100,000 households will be living in B&Bs, hostels and other forms of temporary housing by 2020, as rising housing costs and insecure work continue to “lock” people into poverty, according to research commissioned by Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).

The annual Homelessness Monitor shows that 70 per cent of local authorities in England are struggling to find any stable housing for homeless people in their area, while a striking 89 per cent reported difficulties in finding private rented accommodation.

As a result, many councils have found themselves forced to place ever more homeless people in emergency housing, including B&Bs and hostels, leading to urgent calls for more permanent and genuinely affordable homes to be built.

Government figures published last month revealed almost 79,000 families were staying in temporary housing in the last three months of last year because they didn’t have a permanent home, compared with 48,010 in the same period eight years before.

There had been a significant reduction in families living in such conditions before the coalition government came into power, with the number having fallen by 52 per cent between 2004 and 2010 under the Labour government.

But the figure has crept up in each of the past seven years, from 69,140 in the last quarter of 2015, to 75,740 in the same period in 2016 and 78,930 at the end of last year.

The new report warns that if current trends continue, with housing supply “dwindling” and rents outstripping wages and benefits, more than 100,000 such households will fall into this trap by 2020.

Councils surveyed reported a growing reluctance among landlords to rent to people on welfare. One local authority in the Midlands told researchers it was “pretty much impossible” to access the private rental sector, with the cost of doing so “prohibitive” and the solution “unsustainable”.

A council in southern England, commenting on how reforms to social care services are contributing to homelessness, meanwhile said: “There are more people than ever with complex and multiple needs than ever before. Mental health services are overstretched and unable to cope.”

The findings come the day after it emerged the number of homeless people dying has more than doubled over the past five years, with deaths occurring both on the streets and in crowded hostels.

Crisis and JRF said more must be done to solve the problem – in particular that the government must build more social housing and ensure that homeless people can access it.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of the charity, said it was “truly terrible” that councils across England were finding it increasingly difficult to find homeless people somewhere to live, saying: “Today’s report makes it clear that, unless we take action as a society, this problem will only keep getting worse.

“Homelessness is not inevitable and our research has shown how it can become a thing of the past.”

The charity welcomed the government’s recent actions on homelessness, including its pledge to end rough sleeping by 2027 and the establishment of the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Implementation Taskforce.

But they said more must be done urgently, highlighting that the upcoming green paper on social housing must be an opportunity to make a commitment to building genuinely affordable homes.

Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick, the report’s lead author, said: “This year’s Homelessness Monitor has, again, provided evidence of the profound, cumulative and adverse impact of welfare reform on access to housing for low-income groups, especially in high-value markets.

“The options are narrowing for local authorities charged with preventing and resolving homelessness, as benefit-reliant households are entirely priced out of the private rented sector in some parts of the country.

“At the same time, homeless people’s access to a diminishing pool of social tenancies is increasingly constrained by landlord nervousness about letting to households whose incomes are now so very low that even properties let at social rents can be unaffordable to them.”

Ms Fitzpatrick said the most “fundamental and pernicious” impacts for the poorest households were linked to the caps and freezing of local housing allowance and other working age benefits.

Homeless charity Shelter said the findings demonstrated the “bruising toll” that living in unstable temporary accommodation, especially B&Bs and hostels, takes on people’s lives.

Polly Neate, chief executive of the charity, said: “We see children routinely fall behind at school and their health and happiness left in tatters, while their parents suffer with the heartbreaking belief they’ve failed their children. Really it should be governments shouldering this blame.

“If the current government wants to prevent these families from carrying the scars of homelessness for the rest of their lives, it must act now to build the social homes needed to end this crisis for good.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “Everyone deserves a safe and decent place to live, and we are providing more than £1.2bn to ensure homeless people get the support they need.

“To ensure they can access permanent accommodation, we are also investing £2bn in social rent housing and allowing councils to borrow more to build homes.

“In addition, the Homelessness Reduction Act came into force last week, requiring councils to help those at risk of being homeless sooner.”

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