The Homelessness Monitor: Wales 2021
The Homelessness Monitor: Wales 2021 is the fourth report in Wales of an independent study of the homelessness impacts of recent economic and policy developments in the UK, commissioned and funded by Crisis.
- It is likely that the first year of the pandemic saw a continuation of the pre-COVID-19 trend of rising homelessness demand. According to official statistics, local authority prevention and relief cases grew by 19% in the three years to 2019/20. Then, according to this report’s local authority survey, 15 of 22 councils saw a year-on-year increase in 2020/21.
- An alternative to focussing exclusively on the official administratively generated statistics on homelessness is to utilise a variety of existing data sources to assess trends in ‘core homelessness’. This relates to people in the most severe and immediate forms of homelessness. In 2019, ‘snapshot’ overall core homelessness in Wales stood at 8,980 households, including 5,500 in ‘sofa surfing’ circumstances.
- If COVID-19 had not happened, and economic and demographic trends had continued in a similar fashion to the recent past, projections suggest that future core homelessness numbers in Wales would have run at about the 9-9,500 level throughout the projection period to 2041. It is predicted that the economic aftermath of COVID-19 risks a noticeable immediate rise in core homelessness, but a range of COVID-19 emergency measures have been alleviating this and may continue to do so.
- Our sequential modelling analysis indicates that the most effective policies for reducing core homelessness are Rapid Rehousing, accompanied by social housing allocation quotas for homeless households; maximising prevention efforts, including more use of private renting and financial/debt assistance; and raising the level of the Local Housing Allowance and indexing it effectively to private rent levels.
- The actions taken by the Welsh Government to assist people at risk of homelessness, and especially sleeping rough, during the COVID-19 pandemic were widely praised by research participants. A combination of unequivocal guidance (including with respect to people with No Recourse to Public Funds), substantial additional funds and high-level political commitment, were viewed as pivotal to the effectiveness of these interventions.
- The Welsh Government acted swiftly to protect social and private tenants from eviction by extending eviction notice periods and temporarily banning the enforcement of evictions. But growing levels of rent arrears in the months ahead may test the Welsh Government and landlords’ commitment to end evictions into homelessness from social housing.
- Pre-COVID-19, homelessness was already a high political priority in Wales, with a national strategy published in October 2019. Subsequently, the independent Homelessness Action Group has generated a wealth of detailed policy proposals to give substance to these principles. All Homelessness Action Group recommendations have been accepted in principle by the Welsh Government, and form the basis of a high-level Action Plan, but a degree of wariness with regard to the Rapid Rehousing and Housing First aspects of this agenda is still apparent in parts of the homelessness sector in Wales.
- Another key Homelessness Action Group recommendation concerns the removal of legal barriers to homeless people accessing housing and support, including the current statutory tests of priority need, intentionality and local connection. This report’s local authority survey indicates that the majority of Welsh councils support the removal of the priority need criterion, but opinion is more divided on ending the intentionality test, and authorities are overwhelmingly against the removal of local connection restrictions.
Fitzpatrick, S., Pawson, H., Bramley, G., Young, G., Watts, B. & Wood, J. (2021) The Homelessness Monitor: Wales 2021. London: Crisis