Homeless families in B&B accommodation up by 44%

Tony Gosling tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Tue Sep 18 01:09:00 BST 2012

Homeless families in B&B accommodation up by 44%

National Housing Federation points to rise as 20 
councils warned about housing families in B&Bs for 'unacceptably long time'

Randeep Ramesh, social affairs editor -  The 
Guardian, Monday 17 September 2012

The National Housing Federation found that 
between January and March 2012 there were 3,960 
families nationwide living in B&Bs, up from 2,750 
over the same period in 2011. Photograph: Tony Watson/Alamy

The number of homeless families put up by 
councils in bed and breakfast accommodation has 
risen by almost half, according to an analysis of 
official figures. The rise comes after ministers 
warned 20 councils not to house families in B&Bs for six weeks or more.

The National Housing Federation, which represents 
housing associations, found that between January 
and March 2011 there were 2,750 families 
nationwide living in B&Bs. In the same period in 
2012 this had risen to 3,960, an increase of 44%.

The federation also says the number of homeless 
families is increasing, pushing up demand for 
"emergency temporary accommodation" (B&Bs). In 
the past two years, the number of households 
accepted as homeless has risen by 10,000 to 50,290.

The problem is acute in inner London, where the 
government's policy of capping housing benefit 
has caused thousands of families to approach 
councils to help cover the shortfall between rent 
and state subsidies. Westminster council said it 
now had more than "1,150 households approach for 
advice and assistance due to the local housing 
allowance (LHA) cap. In July, 141 households 
approached for advice, an increase of 27 on the previous month."

"We believe the rise in acceptances is the result 
of the LHA caps and a high proportion of 
applications coming from families who are unable 
to find alternative accommodation, who we are 
required to accept through homeless legislation," the council said.

Because of the shortage of affordable properties 
for low-income people, many are being exported 
out of London. According to Westminster, "in the 
last month we have secured properties in Hemel 
Hempstead, Bletchley, Maidstone and Grays" to house the homeless.

The federation says this sort of temporary 
accommodation is preferable to B&Bs, which lead 
to poor people having no security of tenure. 
However, it warned that from April 2013, families 
living in these homes could be hit by another cap 
which limits the total amount of benefits paid to households to £500 a week.

"As [homes in the private rental sector] become 
more expensive to rent and manage, this could 
mean families are unable to pay the rent – 
pushing them back into B&Bs, or even on to the streets," it said.

The government has not yet confirmed how the 
benefit cap will affect people living in 
temporary accommodation and what measures will be 
taken to protect the service.David Orr, chief 
executive of the National Housing Federation, 
said: "In a B&B, whole families can find 
themselves sharing one room and they are often 
shut out of their accommodation during the day, 
causing huge disruption to daily routines of 
school and work. Every child deserves a decent 
home to come back to after school, where they 
feel secure, and where they can sit down to do 
their homework. That is what temporary accommodation provides.

"Without the safety net of temporary 
accommodation, thousands more families will find 
themselves in a vicious cycle of homelessness.

"It is essential that the government puts in 
place measures to protect this crucial service 
and the vulnerable families who depend on it."

Mark Prisk, the Tory housing minister, said: 
"There is no excuse for any family to be stuck in 
bed and breakfast accommodation, and we have 
offered support to those 20 councils who between 
them account for 80% of families in this 
situation for an unacceptably long time.

"We have some of the strongest protections in the 
world to safeguard people from homelessness, and 
levels remain lower than in 28 of the last 30 
years. Councils have a range of options at their 
disposal to help anyone facing the threat of 
losing their home, and to help them further we've 
increased the discretionary housing pot to about 
£400m over the spending period to help families 
with the transition to the new, fairer system of benefits."
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