William Eichler 22 March 2017

Benefit cuts ‘fuelling’ rising homelessness, charity warns

Benefit cuts ‘fuelling’ rising homelessness, charity warns image

A housing shortfall and Government benefit cuts are ‘fuelling’ rising homelessness as councils warn they are struggling to find social tenancies for homeless people.

A state-of-the-nation report from homelessness charity Crisis found almost two thirds (64%) of councils in England are struggling to find social tenancies for homeless people, while half find it ‘very difficult’ to assist applicants into privately rented accommodation.

Nearly 58,000 people were accepted as homeless by their council in 2015/16 – 18,000 higher than 2009/10. Meanwhile, placements in temporary accommodation have risen sharply, with the national total up by 9% in the year to 30 June 2016, a rise of 52% compared to 2009/10.

Drawing on evidence from 162 of England’s 326 local authorities, the report – also written with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) - revealed 85% of responding councils had difficulties assisting single people aged 25-34 into accommodation and 88% found it difficult housing large families.

Around 94% of councils stated they anticipate greater difficulties in finding accommodation for homeless 25-34 year olds in the next 2-3 years due to rising unemployment, spiralling rents and, declining benefit protection.

The majority of responding councils (89%) expressed concerns that the roll out of Universal Credit will further exacerbate homelessness because of the potential impact on landlords’ willingness to let to homeless people.

Local authorities who provided evidence for the report also cited welfare cuts and Local Housing Allowance (LHA) falling well short of rents in many locations as ‘major barriers’ to councils’ attempts to house homeless applicants.

‘The situation for the thousands who find themselves homeless in England is becoming more and more desperate each year,’ said Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis.

'Until the number of truly affordable rented homes increases significantly, councils will continue to come under huge financial pressure, with dreadful consequences for the most vulnerable in our society.

‘Private renting is often the only choice homeless people have. That’s why Crisis is calling on the Government to invest in schemes that support people into the private rented sector, such as establishing and underwriting a national rent deposit guarantee.

‘The Government is already pouring billions into ‘Help to Buy’ support. What we really need is ‘Help to Rent’.’

Brian Robson, policy and research manager at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), which coauthoered the report, said: ‘The Government has set out welcome plans to build new homes, but these will not be within reach of families who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads.

‘We need action to make sure that new homes are available to people at all income levels, and that there is a safety net in place for those who are at risk of homelessness.

Responding to the report, Cllr Martin Tett, housing spokesman at the Local Government Association (LGA), said: ‘This survey illustrates the challenge facing councils as they try and cope with the nation’s growing homelessness crisis.

‘Faced with increasing demand, funding cuts, falling social housing and wide-ranging welfare reforms, it is increasingly difficult for councils to find emergency care and accommodation for all homeless people, particularly those who are young, vulnerable, or with families.’

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