Poverty and Inequality

24.07.17

Councils having to house over 900 homeless children every month

Councils are currently having to find homes for the equivalent of a secondary school’s worth of homeless children every month, shocking new figures have revealed.

The LGA has warned that local authorities are providing temporary housing for 120,540 children with their families in England – an increase of 32,650 (37%) since the second quarter of 2014. This amounts to an average of 906 extra children every month.

The situation has now been described as “unsustainable”, with the cost of providing temporary housing tripling in the last three years, thus placing more strain on already stretched local government budgets – which face a £5.8bn funding gap by 2020.

A new report released by the LGA details the lengths that councils go to in order to tackle homelessness in their areas, including innovative modular housing, dynamic purchasing systems and private rented sector offers.

However, the organisation also argued that the findings come as more evidence that councils should be given greater freedom to borrow in order to construct affordable houses in their areas.

“When councils are having to house the equivalent of an extra secondary school’s worth of pupils every month, and the net cost for councils of funding for temporary accommodation has tripled in the last three years, it’s clear the current situation is unsustainable for councils, and disruptive for families,” said Cllr Martin Tett, the LGA’s housing spokesman.

“Whilst the government’s indication it will explore ways to enable councils to build more homes is encouraging, these new homes can’t appear overnight, and the demand is urgent.

“Councils are working hard to tackle homelessness, with some truly innovative work around the country – and we now need the government to support this local effort by allowing councils to invest in building genuinely affordable homes, and taking steps to adapt welfare reforms to ensure housing remains affordable for low-income families.”

Trialling innovative solutions to the local housing crisis

The LGA also detailed the ways in which some councils have found innovative ways of easing the pressure that growing homelessness places services under.

The London Borough of Brent, for example, established a council-owned property acquisition company to purchase and let private rented accommodation at rent levels in order to make housing homeless families possible. The target for this policy is to purchase 300 family-sized properties over two years.

Another borough authority in London, Lewisham, brought in an innovative modular scheme to avoid out-of-area placements.

It has already delivered 24 residential units, with rents set by local housing allowance levels alongside eight commercial units that have enabled the authority to drive wellbeing, employment and upskilling.

And Teignbridge District Council managed to convert a town centre building into a homelessness hub within 22 months of receiving planning permission, with the project expected to pay for itself within 12 years.

Last month, PSE also reported that Bristol City Council was looking to sell houses on the private market for the first time in order to reinvest sales proceeds to build social housing.

Today’s news comes just a week after the LGA launched an innovative scheme to support councils with solving local housing issues, one of the targets of which includes reducing homelessness in key areas

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