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Housing

Government told to fix broken temporary accommodation system as homelessness crisis set to worsen

More than 75,000 children live in temporary accommodation in London and there are fears more could be forced into makeshift homes due to the cost of living crisis

Councils must be given more cash to help families at risk of homelessness or risk having to place people in unsuitable temporary accommodation, a think tank has warned.

London boroughs face the largest demand for temporary accommodation across England with 56,500 households, including 75,580 children living in B&Bs, hotels and other makeshift homes. That accounts for almost 60 per cent of England’s households living in temporary accommodation.

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The cost of living crisis is set to force more people out of their homes and into a temporary accommodation system that is already struggling to cope, Centre for London has warned in a new investigation.

The think tank has called for the Westminster government to increase homelessness prevention grants for local authorities to stop families losing their homes. Ministers should also set up a cross-departmental group to solve housing supply issues and work with mayor of London Sadiq Khan to increase the supply of temporary accommodation in anticipation of the rise, Centre for London added.

The think tank’s research director Claire Harding said: “Far too many Londoners are already stuck in temporary accommodation and we’re really worried that the number will rise this winter.”

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Harding added that the government must act with the same urgency showed during the pandemic to get rough sleepers off the streets to stop London’s temporary accommodation crisis continuing to spiral.

“It doesn’t need to be this way: the Everyone In programme, which addressed rough sleeping during the pandemic, shows what can happen when government puts money and focus into tackling homelessness,” she said. “We can do the same for the children and families in London who use temporary accommodation.”

A government spokesperson told The Big Issue London councils will receive £150m to prevent homelessness through financial support or temporary accommodation.

While temporary accommodation is only intended as a short-term solution while residents wait for a permanent home, many individuals and families find themselves placed in poor accommodation outside the area where they live.

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That’s the case in London more than anywhere else in England with a lack of affordable housing seeing 82 per cent of the country’s out-of-borough temporary accommodation placements in the English capital. Of these, 7 per cent have seen households moved out of the English capital altogether.

With property prices at record highs and the rising cost of living, Centre for London has called for a series of measures to help councils and households cope.

The think tank has called for the homelessness prevention grant – a fund paid to local authorities to help households at risk of homelessness – to be increased.

London Councils warned earlier this month that the English capital could lose up to a third of its funding under the grant – around £50m – from next year if reforms proposed as part of a consultation into the fund go through. However, a government spokesperson hit back at the claims as a “total misinterpretation of the figures”.

The think tank also echoed calls from homelessness charities like Crisis for benefits to be increased to help households pay their rent as household incomes are squeezed by inflation and rising energy costs.

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Raising or removing the £23,000 benefit cap and matching local housing allowance rates to match the real cost of housing in London would help keep households in homes, the report said. 

Centre for London also set out a code of good practice for London local authorities to follow when placing a household in temporary accommodation. The advice includes recommendations that families with children should not be allocated nightly paid accommodation without a kitchen and how to calculate where to place households where public transport is affordable and accessible.

That came after researchers found the cost of living risks making it more likely that families will be placed out of borough or in ‘worst-case scenario’ B&B accommodation.

“London faces the most severe homelessness crisis in the country. Everyone deserves the security of a permanent home, but massive numbers of homeless Londoners live in temporary accommodation, with increased long-term occupancy of commercial hotels because other options aren’t available,” said Joanne Drew, co-chair of the London Housing Directors’ Group.

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“The pressures on homeless families are immense and boroughs have long warned that the situation is unsustainable.

“In recent years we’ve seen good progress made in tackling rough sleeping in the capital thanks to effective partnership work with the government and the injection of extra resources. A similar approach must be taken to London’s temporary accommodation challenges, and boroughs look forward to working with ministers on this crucial agenda.”

The report comes after NGO Human Rights Watch and the Childhood Trust warned uninhabitable temporary accommodation in London was violating the human rights of children.

Figures released last week showed the cost of living is already having an impact on homelessness with the number of working people facing homelessness England surging 16 per cent in 2021/22. 

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London, said: “The Mayor is extremely concerned about the number of Londoners currently living in temporary accommodation and is worried that this could rise further due to the cost of living crisis.

“The Mayor has repeatedly called on the government to act urgently to invest in building more of the genuinely affordable homes the capital desperately requires to give those faced with homelessness the option of a secure, affordable home.

“Currently, London receives around £700m a year for affordable housing from central government, but needs £4.9bn a year to meet the capital’s housing needs.”

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said the government is giving London councils £150m to prevent homelessness and provide financial support or temporary accommodation.

The spokesperson added: “Temporary accommodation is a last resort, but it ensures no family is left without a roof over their heads.”

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