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

Hotspot news

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.

Advertisements

Homeless Night Shelter Crisis – ‘Find your own money,’ say MP’s with Blackpool & Anglesey taking an opposite stance.

Hotspot news

The Coalition is refusing to intervene in the growing night shelter crisis – even though it threatens to derail the government’s flagship homelessness strategy.

The funding crisis facing Britain’s emergency night shelters continues to grow, with ministers refusing to intervene despite confusion around whether shelters should continue to be funded through housing benefit.

Charities are warning that up to a third of UK night shelters are under threat, putting the lives of rough sleepers at risk, and, ironically, undermining the government’s own flagship homelessness policy.

The crisis was triggered by a court ruling that indicates emergency shelters should not automatically be able to claim housing benefit on behalf of their homeless clients. Campaigners say that although ministers could avert the crisis by amending regulations to exempt shelters from the ruling, they have so far refused to do so.

As a result, one shelter has closed, 11 local authorities are known to have withdrawn all or some housing benefit payments to their local shelters and many other local authorities are reviewing whether they should cut off payments.

Housing benefit has been a long-established means of financial support for up to a third of emergency shelters, whether they open only in cold weather or all year round. However, ministers have refused to intervene other than to advise shelters to find other ways of raising money.

Homeless Link, which represents homelessness charities, warns that the loss of the shelters could result in the death of rough sleepers, particularly in the winter months.

It says in a briefing:

We are concerned that in some areas night shelters may provide the only emergency accommodation for individuals who might otherwise have to sleep on the streets.

Charities have also pointed out that the coalition’s refusal to exempt shelters threatens ministers’ own No Second Night Out (NSNO) rough sleeper programme. NSNO was launched nationally two years ago by the then housing minister Grant Shapps and the prime minister David Cameron..

The programme is designed to provide a rapid response to people new to rough sleeping, giving them temporary accommodation while they are directed to appropriate support services.

NSNO was credited last week with successfully helping more rough sleepers escape multiple nights on the streets in London, despite a 13% year on year rise overall in the number of people recorded as homeless on the streets of the capital.

The night shelter crisis follows a court ruling in February which we here at UK Homelessness reported which judged that it was unlawful for Anglesey council in Wales to pay housing benefit to a night shelter on behalf of homeless clients because the shelter was temporary and therefore did not constitute a home.

Although the judge said that the case should not set a precedent, several local authorities have subsequently taken legal advice and cut off housing benefit. At least one council, however – Blackpool – has accepted a different legal interpretation of the the ruling and continued to pay housing benefit to clients of a local night shelter.

Reduction in any funding stream to night shelters impacts on some of the most vulnerable people in our communities and puts at risk the Government’s own No Second Night Out initiative. This situation has to be resolved as soon as possible.

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said the government “fully recognises the vital work of night shelters in reducing rough sleeping”. They declined to say whether ministers would clarify the rules on night shelter payments.

Last year I did my own walk to bring awareness for homelessness for Crisis. This is the view from Crisis on todays stats released from Government.

Hotspot news

A 16 per cent increase in homelessness in London over the last year, means the government must use this month’s Spending Review to build more affordable houses and stop and reverse cuts, particularly to housing benefit, warns Crisis, the national charity for single homeless people.

Figures released by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) show that 14,812 households in the capital were accepted as homeless by their local council in the 2012/2013 financial year – an increase of 16 per cent on last year, substantially higher than the 6 per cent rise across England. It is the third consecutive year that homelessness has risen in London and over the three years homelessness acceptances have increased by 57 per cent.

Also in London in 2012/13:

  • There are 40,230 households in temporary accommodation, 9.5 per cent more than at the same point last year
  • There are 2,290 homeless households living in B&Bs, a 22 per cent increase on the same time last year. 51 per cent of all households placed in B&Bs in England are in London.
  • One of the biggest drivers of the increase in homelessness has been private tenancies coming to an end, as rents rise and cuts to housing benefit come in. Since last year there has been a 75 per cent increase in those made homeless because of the ending of a private tenancy in London
  • The ending of a private tenancy is now the leading cause of homelessness in the capital, accounting for 28 per cent of all those accepted as homeless.
  • In some outer London boroughs the rises in homelessness have been severe:
  • In Barking and Dagenham 664 households were accepted as homeless in 2012/13, up 234 per cent on the year before
  • In Newham 720 households were accepted as homeless in 2012/13, up 190 per cent on the year before
  • In Enfield 551 households were accepted as homeless in 2012/13, up 115 per cent on the year before

The homelessness figures follow statistics last week from the government’s Valuation Office Agency2 showing that London rents for 2012/13 are up 8.6 per cent on the year before, with relatively cheaper properties rising faster. Across the capital the lower quartile of rents rose by 10.4 per cent and in inner London the price of renting the cheapest properties went up by 16.3 per cent.

Leslie Morphy, chief executive of Crisis, said: “This rising tide of homelessness is a direct result of cuts to housing benefit at a time when there is a chronic lack of affordable housing and rents are rising, nowhere more so than London. Ministers can and must do more. Their immediate priorities should be to use the spending review to rein in the destructive welfare cuts they have made and focus instead on building the genuinely affordable homes Britain needs.

“These figures are a tragedy for the tens of thousands of people made homeless during the last year, but they are bad for us all. It makes more sense and is more cost-effective to help people stay in their homes than spend far more money on temporary accommodation or support once people become homeless. With more cuts to housing benefit kicking in we can sadly only expect things to get worse”

Independent research clearly showed that cuts to housing benefit3 would cause homelessness and today’s statistics reflect this. Temporary accommodation costs far more to the taxpayer than keeping a family in their own home. Recent reports from London include the story of a family receiving £700 a week in housing benefit made homeless due to cuts, only to be put in £2,500 a week temporary accommodation.

DCLG’s figures only cover households that have met strict criteria for help. Many single homeless people will not be recorded in these figures, nor people who have not gone to their local council for help. People living on the streets, in squats or on friends’ or families’ floors will likewise not be included in today’s statistics.