Thousands of households needed council support to avoid falling into homelessness. Image: Alan Stanton/Flickr
The number of people calling on councils to prevent them from falling into homelessness after receiving a ‘no-fault’ eviction has hit record levels, new government figures show.
In total, 6,400 households across England were judged by local authorities to be at risk of homelessness after receiving an eviction notice from their landlord between January and March 2022. That figure is more than a quarter higher than in the same period before the pandemic in 2020 – 4,740 – and the highest since records began in 2018.
With disruption in Downing Street as the race to appoint a new prime minister continues, Crisis chief executive Matt Downie has urged Boris Johnson’s replacement to act quickly.
“It is deeply concerning that thousands are being forced from their homes and must now face an anxious battle to find somewhere new to live, all at a time when rents are going through the roof and people’s budgets are being squeezed to breaking point,” said Downie.
“How much more hardship are we going to let people endure? It’s crucial that whoever becomes our new prime minister in the next month prioritises introducing the Renters Reform Bill, so we can finally protect people from the trauma and turmoil that comes from being turfed from your home at a moment’s notice.”
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, also called for action from the next prime minister, which is set to be either Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak.
Neate said:“Too many people are losing the battle to keep a roof over their heads – struggling to pay rent and put food in their mouths. With homelessness on the rise whoever becomes the next prime minister needs to get a grip on this crisis, and fast.”
Sarah Owen, Labour’s shadow homelessness and rough sleeping minister, accused both of the Tory leadership candidates of failing to grapple with the issue in their various televised debates.
“Despite rising numbers of people being threatened with homelessness, neither Liz Truss nor Rishi Sunak have even mentioned homelessness during this leadership contest,” said Owen. “They are dangerously out of touch with the lives of families for whom every day is a battle to keep a roof over their heads.”
Overall, 74,230 households received support from councils to prevent or relieve homelessness, up more than 10 per cent on the last three months of 2021 and the highest number since January to March 2020 when the pandemic began.
Almost half of the these households – 36,970 – required relief to help them out of homelessness and that included a steep rise in the number of households with children needing support, up more than 20 per cent since the first three months of 2021.
Homeless Link chief executive Rick Henderson described the figures as “extremely worrying” and warned they would “likely only get worse without action”. Henderson added: “The government promised to abolish no fault section 21 evictions in 2019, with these statistics showing the cost of not yet following through.”
Campbell Robb, chief executive of criminal justice and housing charity Nacro, also feared for the future. He said: “In my years of working with homeless people I have never been so concerned about what is round the corner. Today’s statistics are a warning shot of what is to come as the cost-of-living crisis takes hold.”
But it was households in private rented accommodation that continued to be most at risk of falling into homelessness.
The end of a private rented assured shorthold tenancy was the most common reason why council needed to intervene to prevent homelessness with 13,810 households requiring support.
The number of landlords looking to sell or re-let their property more than doubled since the same period in 2021 and was 17 per cent higher than before the pandemic in 2019.
“The housing emergency was already tipping thousands of people into homelessness before the cost of living crisis took hold,” added Neate.
“High housing costs are a major part of the cost of living crisis, but they are being ignored. To pull struggling renters back from the brink of homelessness, the new prime minister must unfreeze housing benefit so people can afford their rent. But to end homelessness for good, building decent social homes with rents pegged to local incomes is the only answer.”