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29.09.16

‘Urgent need’ to address factors driving up homelessness

New figures show the homelessness crisis is continuing to grow, with local authorities accepting 10% more homelessness applications in the last quarter than a year ago.

According to the latest DCLG statistics, councils accepted homelessness applications from 15,170 households in April to June 2016, 3% more than the previous quarter and 10% more than a year ago.

Furthermore, the figures show that the end of an assured shorthold tenancy by a private landlord is now the most common cause of homelessness, having grown from causing 11% of cases in 2009 to 32% in 2016.

The report said this showed that “affordability is an increasingly significant issue”, with households struggling to find affordable new accommodation at the end of a tenancy, and was also due to the growth of the private rented sector, which has doubled in size in that period.

Cllr Martin Tett, housing spokesperson for the LGA, said: “There is an urgent need to address the factors driving up homelessness, the availability of suitable housing and rents spiralling above household incomes, and to gear all public services to respond to the personal needs of every individual at risk of homelessness or who is homeless.”

He said councils should be able to bring together partners in health, justice, welfare and employment to tackle the issue, and build more housing.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: “These figures are a heartbreaking reminder of the devastating impact our drastic shortage of affordable homes is having.

“Every day at Shelter we hear from families struggling to keep their heads above water when faced with the double blow of welfare cuts and expensive, unstable private renting, with far too many ultimately losing the battle to stay in their home.”

A recent report from the Communities and Local Government Committee found ‘unacceptable’ variation in local authorities’ response to homelessness. It also took the unusual step of sponsoring the Homelessness Reduction Bill, a private members bill from committee member Bob Blackman MP.

However, Cllr Tett said: “Simply rushing through extensive new duties on stretched councils already doing everything they can to prevent and solve homelessness risks unintended consequences for those people that we are all trying to help. Any new duties must be fully thought through, deliverable, and fully funded.”

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of charity Crisis, called the figures “appalling”. He said the charity will lead a mass lobby of Parliament on 19 October, ahead of the Homelessness Reduction Bill’s second reading on 28 October, to urge MPs to support the “historic opportunity” it represents.

“We need a change in the law to prevent more people from losing their home and to make sure all homeless people can get help when they need it, while councils need the funding to make this work,” he said.

The figures also show that there were 73,120 local authority households in temporary housing, 9% higher than a year ago, but the percentage of the total placed outside their local authority had risen by 17%, and 91% of those placed outside their authority were in London.

A recent report from Shelter warned about the increasing trend of London councils placing homeless families in a different authority, warning that this could constitute a failure to fulfil their legal responsibilities.

A DCLG spokesman said: “This government is committed to supporting the most vulnerable in our society and ensuring our country works for everyone, not just the privileged few.

“Statutory homelessness remains less than half the 2003-04 peak and we are investing over £500m to both tackle homelessness and prevent it happening in the first place.”

(Image c. Jonathan Brady from PA Archive)

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