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Thursday, 12 April 2018

Rise in number of homeless in B&Bs as councils struggle to provide stable homes

Written by Jemma Crew

More and more homeless people are becoming trapped in temporary accommodation such as B&Bs as councils fail to provide enough affordable, stable homes, a new report said.

Seven out of 10 local councils in England surveyed by Crisis struggle to find stable social housing for homeless people in their area, with 78,000 households in temporary accommodation, the charity's annual homelessness monitor found.

If current trends continue, it is estimated this number will rise to 100,000 within three years, the charity warned.

The number of families in temporary accommodation rose 8% in the year to 31 March 2017 - part of a 61% rise over six years.

Bed and breakfast placements, which the report said are "often cramped, unsuitable, and sometimes even dangerous", have been rising particularly quickly, and now stand 250% higher than in 2009.

Some 89% of local authorities reported difficulties finding suitable private rented accommodation, as rents rise and become increasingly unaffordable as local housing allowance levels remain frozen.

The chief executive of Crisis, Jon Sparkes, said this was "truly terrible".

Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick, the report's lead author, said: "The options are narrowing for local authorities charged with preventing and resolving homelessness, as benefit-reliant households are entirely priced out of the private rented sector in some parts of the country.

"At the same time, homeless people's access to a diminishing pool of social tenancies is increasingly constrained by landlord nervousness about letting to households whose incomes are now so very low that even properties let at social rents can be unaffordable to them."

A council in the Midlands, quoted in the report, said: "It is pretty much impossible to access the private rental sector. The cost of doing so is prohibitive and the solution is unsustainable because of the massive disparity between LHA rates and market rent."

The annual report, by Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, analysed evidence from 186 local authorities in England.

The councils acted on more than 274,000 cases of homelessness in 2016/17, a rise of 34% in six years and 1% over the past year.

The "vast bulk" of the increase over the past few years is due to the sharply rising numbers made homeless from the private rented sector, the report said.

It said it was "beyond doubt" that statutory homelessness was now far more closely associated with ejection from the private rented sector than mortgage repossessions or by social sector rent arrears.

Reforms to the local housing allowance were a "major driver" of the loss of private tenancies.

Virtually all local authorities that responded to the survey anticipated that a raft of prospective and ongoing welfare benefit freezes and restrictions would exacerbate homelessness in their area to some extent.

The Government's forthcoming social housing green paper is an opportunity to commit to building "genuinely affordable homes needed in England".

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Yui Mok / PA Wire.