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The Homelessness Monitor 2023 and what it tells us about the pressures on Temporary Accommodation

  • 4 min read |
  • Posted by Signe Gosmann
  • On 05 September 2023

The 11th annual Homelessness Monitor is out and, as always, it provides an excellent overview of the current state of homelessness in England. With its combination of statistical analysis, policy review and interviews with key stakeholders, it provides as accurate a picture as we’re likely to get in the short term.

It also provides grim reading. With ‘core homelessness’ at 242,000 individuals, comprising temporary accommodation as well as sofa surfing, rough sleeping and all other severe kinds of homelessness, numbers are stark. Within that figure, the majority, at 104,510 households, covering families as well as single adults, are in various forms of temporary accommodation (TA), including 131,430 children. TA placements have more than doubled since 2010/11.

We know that the majority of those placed in TA are in unsuitable accommodation, detrimental to their physical and mental health, for extended periods of time. The use of Bed and Breakfasts, a form of temporary accommodation, has climbed steeply during 2022 and is up by 32%. At the last count, 1,840 families with children had been living in B&Bs for more than the legal limit of six weeks. Out of area placements stand at 29% of all placements. Almost half the children who become homeless are forced to move schools, and over a fifth have had to move schools multiple times.

Filthy. Heating not working properly - no hot water. Bin bags from previous residents in yard. No one responded to our calls for weeks. Totally ashamed to live like this

Resident of TA

What drives the Temporary Accommodation crisis

The pressures on the system are increasing and come from multiple directions: the cost of living crisis forcing ever more people into poverty; the Ukranian and Afghan refugee crisis leading to increased pressure and competition with the Home Office for low cost accommodation; private landlords leaving the market or putting up rent to cover their rising mortgages; continued evictions in spite of government promises to push through the Renters Reform Bill; frozen housing allowance set at pre pandemic levels while rents are rising; and not enough social housing being built means there are few truly affordable places to go to for those who already find themselves in TA. Almost all Local Authorities the researchers spoke to (97%) said they struggle to find private accommodation for homeless people.

In Hastings alone, the number of homeless people presenting to the council is up from 170 two years ago to over a thousand today.

If you wanted to create a housing crisis, you would pretty much do to the letter what we’ve done in Britain in the last 40 years. (...)This problem is not a housing crisis, it’s a housing emergency

Daniel Hewitt, ITV News

Given these pressures, it is not surprising to see that far fewer statutory homelessness applicants now progress through the system and get a Main Housing Duty decision (to determine whether or not they are owed help by the council). Further, in 2021/22 nearly 19,000 homeless households were turned down, deemed not in priority need or intentionally homeless, and therefore not owed the Main Housing Duty. In the experiences of our frontline services, these people are sent away without support, at best with an address for a hostel or B&B that might take them in on a licence agreement, which crucially offers little to no protection. These places are of course often full, and the applicants are routinely sent away with nothing.

Among those research participants whose contact with Housing had ended, the Homelessness Monitor shows that nearly half (46%) remained homeless after going to the local authority for support. These figures are deeply concerning, and hint that the real problem is greater than what we can learn through official data.

What needs to be done

The government’s focus is almost exclusively on rough sleeping, an important but small part of the problem (3,069 individuals at the last count). They are keen to deliver on the pledge to end rough sleeping by 2024, yet they fail to recognise that approximately half of the people sleeping rough in England have no recourse to public funds and therefore need different solutions; solutions that require collaboration with the Home Office.

This narrow focus does little to address the homelessness crisis experienced by so many. Without any change in policy, the Homelessness Monitor predicts further increases, particularly in London, with core homelessness projected to rise by 37% above 2020 levels over the next 18 years.

It is high time to stem the tide by unfreezing the Local Housing Allowance and set it to track the 30th percentile of market rates, pushing through the Renters Reform Bill, regulating standards in Temporary Accommodation, building more truly affordable social housing and providing adequate support to Local Authorities, financially as well as in terms of policy. It is a national crisis and must be treated as such.

To build momentum behind this call for action, we are calling an emergency APPG meeting in collaboration between the APPG for TA and the APPG for Ending Homelessness on the 11th September.

Collaboration and long term thinking, particularly across departments such as the Home Office, DHLUC, the Treasury and DWP, is needed to avoid homelessness coming in as an afterthought. With more than one child on average in every classroom in London homeless, surely this crisis can no longer be ignored.

Unless otherwise stated, the data in this piece has been taken from the Homelessness Monitor 2023. The views expressed belong solely to Justlife.