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19.04.16

Higher housing prices increasing homelessness and out-of-boundary placements

Homelessness and the need to place homeless people outside their local area are increasing because of high house prices, council officials told the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee yesterday.

Jim Crawshaw, integrated service head for homeless and pre-tenancy services at Birmingham City Council, told the committee that Birmingham had seen their homeless numbers increase in the past five years from five rough sleepers at their annual count to 92 and from no families in bed-and-breakfast accommodation to 23.

Homelessness in England as a whole increased by 30% in the past year, according to recent DCLG figures.

Crawshaw blamed the increase in homelessness on a lack of affordable accommodation, saying: “That’s people who 10 years ago would have been first-time buyers, but because of demand for credit and deposits and so forth, their demand is being fed into the private rented sector.

“Insufficient supply overall is driving up rents in the private rented sector and so unsurprisingly we’ve seen such a big rise in the number of people presenting who are in the process of losing their private rented tenancy.”

Hazel Summers, strategic director of adult social services at Manchester City Council, added that homeless people were “silting up our services” because of a lack of affordable rented accommodation.

The House of Lords introduced an amendment to the Housing and Planning Bill last week designed to help councils preserve the availability of council housing.

When asked if they had to move homeless people out of their area to find a place where they could afford housing, all the council officials said they tried to avoid doing so but agreed it was a risk.

Placing homeless people further away can make it harder for them to find jobs and healthcare and maintain relationships with their families and forces children in homeless families to change schools.

“Our out-of-boundary placements are extremely brief,” said Nick Hooper, service director for housing solutions from Bristol City Council.

However, Cllr Daniel Astaire, cabinet member for housing, regeneration, business and economic development at Westminster City Council, said: “Practically every single placement we have is challenged. It’s a huge burden on the local authority and the local taxpayer.”

He also called for a more joined-up approach to housing locations, saying local authorities needed to work together to ensure residents had a suitable placement that they weren’t then priced out of again, and that it was currently hard to get information from neighbouring authorities such as whether there were suitable school places in their area.

The government announced new measures aimed at tackling homelessness in the most recent Budget, but the Local Government Association and homelessness charity Crisis warned that much greater action is needed.

(Image c. Trowbridge Estate)

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