Responding to a major new report from the charity Shelter, Cllr Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ Executive Member for Housing & Planning, said:
“Addressing the housing emergency should be a top priority for the government as we look to build back better from the pandemic.
“The emergency is particularly severe in London, where we face the highest homelessness levels and worst housing pressures in the entire country.
“Boroughs are determined to do everything we can to ensure every Londoner has a safe and secure home – but councils need urgent government action to make this happen. Only the government can bring forward the massive investment in social housing and changes to the welfare system required to resolve the worsening crisis.”
London Councils estimates 165,000 homeless Londoners currently live in temporary accommodation arranged by their local borough – accounting for almost two-thirds of the total number across England. Around a quarter of a million Londoners are on waiting lists for council housing.
Last week London Councils warned of a “triple whammy” of risks that could see homelessness rise to record levels in the coming months.
The cross-party group, which represents all 32 boroughs and the City of London Corporation, is calling on the government to:
- Confirm both short-term and long-term funding arrangements for local homelessness services. London Councils is pushing for more investment in the government’s spending review due later this year.
- End the five-week wait for Universal Credit payments to begin and ensure Local Housing Allowance continues to match the cost of renting in London (in April 2020 as part of its response to the Covid-19 pandemic the government increased LHA rates to cover at least 30% of local private sector rents).
- Restore government funding for councils’ local welfare assistance schemes supporting residents in financial crisis (the government abolished its £178 million annual funding for local welfare assistance from 2015/16, forcing councils to finance this provision from their own general funds).
- Increase Discretionary Housing Payment funding to support households at risk of homelessness. National funding for these payments was reduced by 22% for 2021/22.
- Improve councils’ resources for building social housing. If the government confirmed social rent levels for the next ten years (as opposed to only four) and ended its restrictions on how councils can use Right to Buy sales receipts, boroughs would be in a stronger financial position to invest in new social homes for their communities.