William Eichler 29 September 2016

Homelessness at a ten-year high

Homelessness figures have hit a ten-year high as council chiefs warn against ‘rushing through’ new duties to tackle the problem.

New data published yesterday by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) revealed a total of 15,170 households were classed as homeless in the three months to June 2016 - a jump of 10% on the same period last year.

Around a third of these households are located in London, according to the DCLG’s figures.

In a bid to tackle this growing problem, Parliament will be debating a private members bill - the Homelessness Reduction Bill - next month which will impose new duties on local authorities to help prevent people at risk of losing their homes from becoming homeless.

However, council chiefs are sceptical that placing more duties on local authorities would solve the problem.

‘Simply rushing through extensive new duties on stretched councils already doing everything they can to prevent and solve homelessness risks unintended consequences for those people that we are all trying to help,’ warned Cllr Martin Tett, housing spokesman for the Local Government Association (LGA).

Cllr Tett acknowledged there is an ‘urgent need’ to address the factors driving up homelessness and said local authorities were best placed to do this, but he cautioned that they would not be able to do it ‘alone’.

‘Faced with significant cuts to their budgets, falling social housing availability and welfare reforms, it is clear councils cannot tackle this challenge alone,’ he said.

The LGA spokesperson also highlighted the fact that many of the new homelessness cases were the results of private tenancies ending and he called for councils to be granted the powers to build more affordable homes.

‘As a third of new homelessness cases now emerge from a private tenancy ending, homes for affordable and social rent are crucial to keep rents low and prevent homelessness,’ Cllr Tett said.

‘However, the availability of social rented council housing has halved since 1994, dropping from 3.6 million properties to 1.6 million properties in 2016.

‘That is why giving councils the powers and funding to resume their historic role as a major builder of affordable homes is also vital to end homelessness.’

In his speech to the Labour conference yesterday, Jeremy Corbyn announced Labour will ‘build over a million new homes at least half of them council houses’ and said they would ‘control private rents’.

He also said a Labour Government would allow councils to borrow against their housing stock.

'That single measure alone would allow them to build an extra 12,000 council homes a year,' he said.

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