Charities call for more affordable homes as rising numbers of people end up trapped in B&Bs and temporary accommodation

The majority of local councils in England are struggling to find any stable housing for homeless people in their area, leaving them forced to place more and more people in unstable temporary accommodation, a new state-of-the-nation report from Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) shows today.

As housing supply dwindles and rents outstrip wages and benefits, 70% of local authorities surveyed for the report said they had difficulties finding social housing for homeless people last year, while a striking 89% reported difficulties in finding private rented accommodation. [See box-out of local council quotes below]

As a result many councils have found themselves forced to place ever more homeless people in temporary accommodation, including B&Bs and hostels, leading to urgent calls for more permanent and genuinely affordable homes to be built.

The report warns that 78,000 homeless households in England are in temporary accommodation and, if current trends continue, more than 100,000 such households will be trapped in temporary accommodation by 2020.

The Homelessness Monitor: England, an annual independent study funded by Crisis and JRF and carried out by Heriot-Watt University, is the most comprehensive homelessness study of its kind. Published every year since 2011, it includes a national survey of councils, statistical analysis, and in-depth interviews with council and national government representatives and charities working with homeless people.

The report found that the problem of rising homelessness pressures is not limited to London. 40% of councils in London said the number of people seeking help from their homelessness services had risen over the last year, compared to 76% in the Midlands, 70% in the south and 62% in the north.

Crisis and JRF say more must be done to solve the problem – in particular that the government must build more social housing and ensure that homeless people can access it. In the report, the councils surveyed reported a growing reluctance among landlords to rent to people on welfare.

The charities welcome the government’s recent actions on homelessness, including the pledge to end rough sleeping by 2027 and the establishment of the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Implementation Taskforce, but more must be done urgently. The upcoming Green Paper on social housing will be an important opportunity to make a commitment to building the genuinely affordable homes needed in England. 

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said:

“It’s truly terrible that, across England, councils are finding it increasingly difficult to find homeless people somewhere to live. This means ever more people are ending up trapped in B&Bs and hostels, with no stability and often in cramped conditions.

“Today’s report makes it clear that, unless we take action as a society, this problem will only keep getting worse. Homelessness is not inevitable and our research has shown how it can become a thing of the past.

“We warmly welcome the government’s pledges to tackle rough sleeping and the new Homelessness Reduction Act, but the government must provide more social housing that all homeless people can access if this push is going to succeed.”

Campbell Robb, chief executive of JRF, said:

"As a country we believe in justice and compassion and protecting people from harm, so it is simply unacceptable that more and more people face the misery and insecurity of living in bed and breakfasts and other forms of temporary accommodation in England today. 

“We have a shared responsibility to ensure everyone can access a decent and safe home, especially at times of crisis in people’s lives. High housing costs, low pay and insecure work are locking people in poverty restricting their choices: with councils finding it harder to help, more families are being forced into temporary accommodation. This is not right.

“A failure by successive Governments to build enough genuinely affordable homes has contributed to this situation. The Government has recognised the problem with its Homelessness Reduction Act, and the forthcoming social housing green paper is another opportunity to commit to building the low-cost rented homes we need to release families from the grip of poverty.”

Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick, the report’s lead author, said:

"This year's Homelessness Monitor has, again, provided evidence of the profound, cumulative and adverse impact of welfare reform on access to housing for low-income groups, especially in high-value markets.

“The options are narrowing for local authorities charged with preventing and resolving homelessness, as benefit-reliant households are entirely priced out of the private rented sector in some parts of the country. At the same time, homeless people's access to a diminishing pool of social tenancies is increasingly constrained by landlord nervousness about letting to households whose incomes are now so very low that even properties let at social rents can be unaffordable to them.

“The upward trend in sharing households, and the declining ability of younger adults to form separate households across England, is testimony to the growing pressures in the market more broadly. While much attention has (rightly) focussed on the structural difficulties associated with Universal Credit, such as waiting times, the more fundamental and pernicious impacts for the poorest households are associated with the caps and freezing of Local Housing Allowance and other working age benefits."


What councils said in our homelessness survey:

A council in southern England, commenting on the struggle to find private housing for people on Local Housing Allowance (LHA) benefits:

"Market rent here is on average £600 above the LHA rate for the area ...We struggle to find any private rented accommodation in the district."

A council in the Midlands commented:

"It is pretty much impossible to access the private rental sector. The cost of doing so is prohibitive and the solution is unsustainable because of the massive disparity between LHA rates and market rent."

A London borough commented:

"(Private) Landlords have been able to achieve higher rents than LHA levels and have evicted their tenants."

A council in southern England, commenting on private landlords refusing to rent to people on benefits:

"Only a handful of the 40+ letting agents in [our area] will accept households in receipt of benefits."

A council in southern England, commenting on how reforms to social care services are contributing to homelessness:

"There are more people than ever with complex and multiple needs than ever before. Mental health services are overstretched and unable to cope."