The number of households forced to live in temporary accommodation like B&Bs and refuges has soared by over 20 per cent in the past year – despite safeguards introduced under the Homelessness Reduction Act (HRA) last April.
By December last year, 83,700 households had been placed in temporary accommodation in England under the HRA, 5 per cent more than a year earlier. Nearly 70 per cent of those were in London alone.
Polly Neate, chief executive of homelessness charity Shelter, said families are being “pushed to the hard edge of the housing crisis” by “crippling private rents, frozen benefits and endless waiting lists for social homes that don’t exist”.
The new government figures show that three quarters of families in B&Bs and hostels have children, a surge of as much as 267 per cent between 2010 and 2018. There were 124,490 minors housed in B&Bs and hostels by December last year.
Data showing the number of children who have been living in temporary accommodation for longer than six weeks suggests HRA policy has made some improvement, down 8 per cent between 2017-18. However, the overall number – 810 – is up by 440 per cent since 2010.
— Crisis (@crisis_uk) May 24, 2019
Analysis of the government figures show that a household becomes homeless in England every five minutes.
More than one in five were found to be homeless after a private rented tenancy was ended.
The Shelter chief executive added: “It’s impossible to ignore the frightening levels of homelessness in England right now. Hundreds of thousands of people are desperate for help, from those sleeping on the street to families trapped in emergency B&Bs.
“It’s clear this is a national emergency that won’t go away on its own – real change must happen now.
“The bottom line is that you can’t solve homelessness without building homes people can actually afford to live in. So, if housing really is the government’s top domestic issue, it needs to get serious about a new generation of social homes – 3.1 million to be exact. And in the meantime, increase housing benefit so that it at least covers the basic cost of private rent.”
The HRA gave councils in England a legal duty to engage with people who have applied to them for help with homelessness in order to offer help and advice to prevent or relieve homelessness within 56 days.
A Local Government Association’s survey found more people were housed in temporary and emergency accommodation since the Act was introduced, and were staying there for longer, in six out of 10 of the councils they quizzed.
Campaigners say the true scale of homelessness won’t improve until more social housing is built. Shelter called for 3.1 million more social homes to be built over the next two decades – 155,000 a year compared to the 6,463 built in 2017-18.
Alex Cunningham MP, Labour’s Shadow Housing Minister, said the “shameful” rise in homeless children stuck in temporary accommodation “will be the legacy of this failed Conservative government”.
He continued: “Rising homelessness is a crisis of the Tories’ own making as we’ve seen investment in the number of low-cost homes to buy and rent tumble. Add to that cuts in housing benefit, reduced funding for homelessness services and a private rental sector lacking any real protections and we know why so many are being let down.
“Labour will end rough sleeping and tackle the root cause of homelessness. We’ll equip local authorities to build thousands of homes where they’re needed, address the high cost of land, build more affordable homes and provide the protections private renters need.”