Recovery? Homelessness up along with house prices in SE UK

Tony Gosling tony at
Thu Dec 5 13:20:42 GMT 2013

Homelessness rises along with house prices in London and south-east

Number of households accepted as homeless rises 
13% in a year in capital, with many unable to afford new leases
Ramesh and 
Meyer  - 
Thursday 5 December 2013 12.17 GMT 

prices in 
and the south-east have seen sharp increases in 
official figures have revealed.

Councils accepted 57,350 households as being 
homeless and placed them in temporary 
accommodation – including hotels and bed and 
breakfasts – in September 2013, a figure 8% 
higher than during the same period in 2012. More 
than two-thirds of these homeless households 
contained children or pregnant women.

The new data revealed that there were now 2,100 
homeless families living in emergency B&Bs, the highest number for a decade.

With the numbers of people in "priority need" 
falling – essentially a measure of how many 
single people applied for help – the government 
could point to a fall in numbers "accepted as 
owed a main duty under homelessness legislation". 
This figure dropped 4% to 13,330 between 1 July and 30 September 2013.

However, the role of the capital in these figures 
reveals the effect of the buoyant 
market in London. In London, the number of 
households accepted as being owed a main 
homelessness duty was 4,410 – an increase of 13% 
from 3,900 during the same quarter a year 
earlier. The city now accounts for 33% of the England total.

Charities point out that with rents rising in the 
capital, the effect is that many cannot afford to 
renew leases on homes. These households end up 
turning to the local authority for help – which 
has no council or social housing available and is 
forced to place people in hotels as a "temporary" solution.

The figures show that in London, the main reason 
for the loss of a last settled home was the 
ending of an assured shorthold tenancy at 1,440 – 
a third of the capital's acceptances.

Leslie Morphy, chief executive officer at the 
homelessness charity Crisis, said: "With a third 
of all new cases of homelessness coming from 
London, this shows the dark side of the capital's 
housing boom. Soaring prices and increased demand 
combined with cuts to housing benefit are pushing people into homelessness.

"They are falling out of the private rented 
sector at an accelerating rate and, if they are 
lucky, joining the growing numbers in temporary 
accommodation, whilst growing numbers of others 
deemed 'not a priority' are left to fend for themselves.

"We need the government to address the chronic 
lack of affordable housing, to take real steps to 
improve the private rented sector and to urgently 
consider the impact its housing benefit cuts are 
having, particularly in the capital."

Shelter said the statistics meant nearly 85,000 
children in Britain faced waking up homeless on 
Christmas morning. It warned that as the rising 
cost of living and cuts to the housing safety net 
continued to take their toll, many more parents 
were likely to find themselves facing an ongoing 
struggle to keep a roof over their children's heads.

Campbell Robb, Shelter's chief executive, said: 
"These new figures are even worse than we expected.

"It is an absolute disgrace that thousands of 
children in Britain face waking up homeless this 
Christmas morning. We'll be there to help make 
sure families get the support they need to get 
back on their feet, but we need to see the 
government rebuild our shredded safety net so 
it's there to catch families who fall on hard times."

Already taking more than 470 calls a day to its 
helpline, Shelter is now bracing itself for an 
increase in demand for its advice services this 
Christmas, particularly given the 15% rise in the 
number of calls received during December last year.

Jo-ann, a GP receptionist from Hillingdon, and 
her seven-year-old son were made homeless after 
they were evicted by their landlord and unable to 
find anywhere else to live. They are now living 
in a B&B in Hounslow and facing the prospect of being homeless this Christmas.

Jo-ann said: "It's so hard to give him a balanced 
diet as it's impossible to make proper meals 
here, let alone a Christmas dinner. He's getting 
really pale and is so tired all the time. He gets 
so scared but it's difficult when I'm scared 
myself. This is no place for a child to live. 
We're desperately hoping we won't be here for Christmas."

Many others in the housing sector say the real 
concern lies ahead – with a "perfect storm of 
cuts, inflation and shortage of supply" in the next two years.

Howard Sinclair, chief executive of the charity 
Broadway Homelessness and Support, said: "There 
is a perfect storm coming over the next 18 
months. Welfare reforms, reductions in 
homelessness services and the increased cost of 
living will inevitably lead to more pressures on 
individuals and families, particularly the 
poorest and most vulnerable in society. These 
pressures are all too likely to lead to tenancy 
breakdown, homelessness and for some, rough sleeping.

"Problems will be compounded as more people get 
into debt, and this is especially difficult in 
London and the south-east due to the serious lack 
of properties available for people to live in. 
Inevitably, and sadly, the numbers of homeless 
people will go up and we are already seeing this."

Kevin Williamson, head of policy for the National 
Housing Federation, said: "Homelessness is the 
bleakest face of our housing crisis and this rise 
is a real concern. To rid us of this problem we 
urgently need to build more homes that people can 
afford – particularly for low-income families who 
are forever struggling with rising housing costs.

"Until we have the right homes in the right 
places at the right prices we will still need 
emergency accommodation to house those that find 
themselves in a sudden and desperate need of 
shelter. Temporary accommodation must be 
protected so that people made homeless can live 
in secure and affordable homes until they get themselves back on their feet."

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