London Councils has responded to new research from the charity Crisis revealing that nearly a quarter of a million households across England are experiencing the worst forms of homelessness, including rough sleeping, sofa surfing, and being stuck in unsuitable B&B temporary accommodation.
The findings also show 85% of councils across England are facing an increase in people experiencing homelessness – the highest number in any year since the annual research began.
London is the epicentre of the national homelessness emergency, accounting for well over half of all homeless households living in temporary accommodation in England (emergency housing provided by local authorities for homeless households).
London Councils’ own recent research revealed that one in 50 Londoners is now homeless and living in temporary accommodation arranged by their local borough, including one in 23 children.
Cllr Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ Executive Member for Regeneration, Housing & Planning, said:
“The homelessness situation is fast-becoming disastrous and requires urgent action from the government at a national level.
“In London we face increasingly unmanageable pressures. It is utterly unsustainable to have one in 50 Londoners living in temporary accommodation. There is at least one homeless child in every London classroom – an appalling statistic showing the massive social impact of the worsening housing crisis.
“Ministers must work with councils and other partners across the housing and homelessness sectors to reverse these trends. There are at least 143,000 potential new homes we could begin building immediately in London if the government addressed the barriers to delivery, including by providing additional infrastructure and affordable housing grant funding.
“We cannot afford delay – this is an emergency situation needing an emergency response.”
London Councils estimates that almost 170,000 Londoners are now homeless and in temporary accommodation.
London Councils’ research shows the number of households entitled to homelessness support from a London borough (i.e. owed a homelessness prevention or relief duty) increased 15.2% between April 2022 and April 2023.
There has also been a dramatic 781% increase in homeless families placed in bed and breakfast accommodation beyond the legal six-week limit. This equates to 1,287 London families stuck in unsuitable B&B accommodation in April 2023 compared to 146 the same month last year.
Rising homelessness numbers are putting immense strain on boroughs’ finances. London Councils estimate that boroughs are collectively spending at least £60 million each month on temporary accommodation costs.
London Councils is urging the government to:
Raise Local Housing Allowance (LHA). LHA, which eligible households receive as part of their housing benefit or Universal Credit if they have a private landlord, has been frozen since 2020 despite private rents increasing since then. Boroughs believe LHA should be increased to cover at least 30% of local market rents – a policy the government adopted successfully at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Support councils to buy accommodation sold by private landlords. 40% of all homes listed for sale in London in 2022 were previously let by a private landlord. The government should build on initiatives such as the Local Authority Housing Fund by providing increased capital investment for housing acquisitions, particularly to acquire homes being sold by private landlords as they exit the market.
Boost Homelessness Prevention Grant funding. Local authorities play a vital role in supporting struggling households to avoid homelessness. Councils require an immediate emergency funding increase to ensure local services have the resources needed in the face of rising levels of demand for support.
Increase Discretionary Housing Payments. These payments are used by councils to help residents in financial crisis meet their housing costs. They are an essential homelessness prevention tool, but government funding for Discretionary Housing Payments in 2023-24 has been frozen at 2022-23 levels, despite significantly increasing homelessness pressures.
Bring forward a cross-departmental strategy to reduce homelessness. Tackling homelessness must become a major priority at a national level with government departments working together – in addition to key partners such as local authorities – as effectively as possible.