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30.09.15

‘Big rise’ in homeless families sent to temporary housing outside their district

The number of homeless families in temporary accommodation outside their local authority district rose by 25% in June compared to the same time last year, according to a report by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

Councils are also failing to offer permanent accommodation to homeless applicants, with 63% of the accepted applications being placed in provisional homes between April and June of this year. The total number of households awaiting fixed placements rose by 12% compared to the same time in 2014.

The overall amount of accepted household applications also grew by 5% in the second quarter of 2015 compared to the same time last year, with councils taking in nearly 14,000 eligible homeless citizens.

Gavin Smart, deputy chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, claimed the figures were “extremely worrying”.

He said the “big rise” in the number of households placed outside their district may be down to the “increasing cost of housing, especially in London”.

“The cost of housing can make it difficult for local authorities to find a home for people in the same area, but councils must do everything they can to avoid moving people away from their communities and support networks.

“The Localism Act was supposed to make it easier for local authorities to help extremely vulnerable people find a home, but welfare reform is making it harder. Setting up a fund to support them could help prevent homelessness, give people without a roof over their heads more options and give landlords more confidence to let to people they might previously have seen as ‘higher risk’,” he said.

The number of households placed in provisional homes with shared facilities – bed and breakfast, hostels or women’s refuges – also increased by 14% compare to June 2014. The increase in bed and breakfast placements alone grew by 23% in the same period.

Smart said: “We are particularly concerned about the big jump in the number of people trapped in bed and breakfast accommodation, including more than 2,500 families with children. This type of accommodation is often very poor quality and highly unsustainable, especially for families.”

But a spokesperson for the DCLG said: “Statutory homelessness acceptances are now less than half of the 2003-4 peak. We have made over £1bn available since 2010, to prevent and tackle homelessness and support vulnerable households. Our investment has helped prevent almost a million households from becoming homeless.”

The applications are open to statutorily homeless people – those who do not have the legal right to occupy the accommodation they might be in or should not reasonably continue to live there.

Private tenancy is the biggest reason for homelessness, accounting for 30% of the accepted applications for households in England. In London, this proportion grows to 38%.

The report added that the end of an assured household tenancy – during which a landlord cannot increase the rent set out in a contract – has been an “increasingly frequent” cause of homelessness, rising from just over 4,500 in 2009-10 to over 16,000 in 2014-15.

This has been the most frequent cause of homelessness for the last thirteen consecutive quarters, in part owed to the fact that the number of households living in the private rented sector has doubled in the last ten years.

Homelessness is particularly stark in London, where the rate of household acceptances per 1,000 households is twice as higher as in the rest of the country. The number of households in temporary addresses in the capital also accounts for 74% of the total England figure.

(Top image c. Lynne Cameron, PA Wire)

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