Private rented sector still most common way to solve homelessness, figures show

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Less use was made of landlord incentive schemes to get people at risk of homelessness into private rented accommodation last year, but it was still the most common solution, official figures released yesterday show.

Statistics issued by the Department for communities and local government (DCLG) show in 2012/13 a total of 202,400 cases of homelessness intervention for households and individuals took place outside the current legal framework.

Under the Homelessness Act 2002, local housing authorities must have a strategy for preventing homelessness in their area. Such action plans must cover non-priority cases as well as incidents where people make themselves homeless intentionally.

The overwhelming majority (90%) of such actions were some 181,500 preventions by helping people find alternative accommodation or aid to stay in their own home.

In addition, 21,000 instances of relief support, where authorities cannot prevent homelessness and have no legal obligation to do so, made up the remaining 10% of help offered.

More than half (53%) of all help given was in the form of helping households find alternative accommodation, a 4% dip in the proportion the previous year. However, the share of help which involved helping households stay in their existing homes increased by the same proportion, from 43% in 2011/12 to 47% in 2012/13.

The most common preventative action to prevent homelessness was the use of landlord incentive schemes to secure private rented accommodation. Around 26,2000 cases, some 13% of the total were dealt with in this way, although this was a decrease of 5% compared to the 18% proportion in 2011/12.

But on posting this today on my WordPress blog, Facebook and Twitter I decided to dig a little deeper and figures show that Nine million people now pay rent to private landlords in the UK after the reckless expansion of the buy-to-let market, with too many stuck in expensive, substandard homes and desperately insecure tenancies. The sheer number of recommendations for sweeping reform in a House of Commons select committee report this week is itself testament to just how deep the problems are in this sector.

Letting agents should face far tougher rules, says the committee. The worst should be banned. Tenants need to be protected from the appalling rise in letting agency fees, with the committee proposing that adverts for properties reveal every add-on fee. Councils should have new powers to weed out rogue landlords who soak up billions from housing benefit but leave their tenants in dirty, damp and overcrowded homes.

The committee also recommends a reform of letting contracts to remove the constant threat of eviction for families forced into renting long term. The report highlighted one tenant, Carl Thomas, whose 10-year-old daughter had already moved seven times.

But two words are conspicuously absent from the long list of recommendations: rent control.
Conservatives reel in horror at the idea of rent control, which they blame for the dilapidation and collapse of the rental market in the 1960s. Landlords, unable to put up the rent, simply let their properties (and tenants) rot. A return to rent control will strangle supply, returning us to the bad old days, they warn. Yet the same people used the same economic theory to oppose minimum wage legislation – and were wrong then, too.

I would just point out and its the bedroom tax which is what I blog about a great deal that wasn’t included and the cuts to housing benefit will certain bring a big increase to the homelessness figure.

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