Thousands more working households facing homelessness in England

Thousands more working households are homeless or facing homelessness in England, according to the latest statistics, which also show that almost 200 households with children have spent at least five years in a hostel.

Homelessness charities said the figures are “a symptom of the huge paucity of genuinely affordable homes” as they called on the Government to raise the local housing allowance (LHA) so that it covers soaring private rents.

A total of 298,430 households were assessed as being owed a homelessness duty due to homelessness or threatened with homelessness in the year to March 2023, the Government said, which is the highest figure since that measure began being recorded five years ago.

This is up 6.8% from the previous year and also 3% above the pre-pandemic level in 2019-20, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said.

Households are owed what is known as a relief duty by local authorities if they are already homeless or a prevention duty if they are threatened with homelessness, with councils helping them to find alternative accommodation.

In the year to March, 42,620 households needed such help where the main applicant was in full-time work – a rise of 10.8% on the previous year’s figure of 38,460.

The statistics showed households needing such help where the main applicant was retired was up by almost a fifth (19.3%) from 7,420 to 8,850 in the year to March.

Homeless charity St Mungo’s has written to the Chancellor to “imploring him once again to raise housing benefit so that it covers the bottom 30% of local rents”.

LHA rates are used to calculate housing benefit for tenants renting from private landlords but Homeless Link, the membership body for frontline homelessness services in England, said a failure to raise this in line with rising rents means “people who rely on benefits now have zero affordable options to rent privately”.

The Government said it has invested in housing support to help ease the pressure of rising rents but added that LHA rates are not intended to cover all rents in all areas.

Friday’s figures also showed the lengthy periods of time people have spent in temporary accommodation.

Of the 104,510 households in temporary accommodation in England at the end of March, 16,230 (16%) had been in the accommodation for one to two years.

Almost a quarter – 24% or 24,830 households had been in the situation for two to five years and almost a fifth – 18% or 18,340 – for at least five years.

Under legislation that came into force in 2004, the use of B&Bs for families is prohibited except in an emergency, and even then it should not be used for longer than six weeks.

The latest figures show that some 350 households had spent at least five years in a hostel – a category that includes reception centres, emergency units and refuges – while 180 households had spent this length of time in a bed and breakfast hotel.

A total of 64,940 households with children were in temporary accommodation on March 31 of this year, of which 10,030 (15%) had been there for one to two years, 17,100 (26%) for two to five years and 13,530 (21%) for at least five years.

There were 190 households with children that had spent at least five years in a hostel, while 60 had spent this period in a bed-and-breakfast hotel.

Emma Haddad (pictured), St Mungo’s chief executive, said the latest statistics are “yet more devastating evidence of how the lack of affordable housing is resulting in thousands of people unable to keep a roof over their heads” and added that the “freeze on housing benefit is feeding a growing temporary accommodation bill”.

Rick Henderson of Homeless Link said Chancellor Jeremy Hunt must use his Autumn Statement to “uplift LHA to help prevent thousands more people, including children, from becoming homeless, whilst helping those that are experiencing homelessness find a home they can afford”.

The Salvation Army said the “freeze on the local housing allowance has not only blown a hole through housing benefit, putting thousands of vulnerable people in danger of losing their homes but is wrecking Government efforts to tackle this problem” but insisted the ministers have the “power to put things right”.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said the “catastrophic failure to build enough genuinely affordable social homes” is depriving children of a safe and settled home, while Crisis chief executive Matt Downie, said the figures showed “the Westminster Government’s failure to get a grip on our crumbling housing market”.

Shelter said the Government can “bring this nightmare to an end by building the social housing we are sorely lacking, and by immediately unfreezing housing benefit so that people can afford to pay private rents in the meantime”.

A Government spokesperson said: “We’re helping to ease the pressure of rising rents and investing over £30 billion on housing support this year on top of record financial support worth around £3,300 per household.

“We’ve also maintained our £1 billion boost to Local Housing Allowance while our Discretionary Housing payments provide a safety net for anyone struggling.

“But, the key is preventing homelessness before it occurs, which is why we have given £2 billion over three years to help local authorities tackle homelessness and rough sleeping.”

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