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Temporary Accommodation - the numbers behind the stories

  • 4 min read |
  • Posted by Signe Gosmann
  • On 07 May 2023

The recent release of the APPG report based on the Call for Evidence from households in Temporary Accommodation (TA) adds 81 individual testimonies describing life in TA to the growing evidence that too much TA is not fit for purpose. From disabled individuals unable to leave their room and women feeling unsafe among violent men, to children unable to develop physically and academically due to cramped and unsafe conditions, unsuitable TA is leaving a lasting negative impact on far too many. Between April 2019 and March 2022, staying in TA may have contributed to the sudden and unexpected deaths of 34 children, according to the National Child Mortality Database.

The negative impact of life in TA is clear. What is perhaps less clear is the lifelong effect it can have, long after settled accommodation has been achieved, in terms of ongoing trauma, ill health, missed opportunities and delayed development. Much like prison, it can be an excellent place to get introduced to drugs. The longer the stay in TA, the harder it will be to move on.

How many people live in Temporary Accommodation in England

Since 2011, the number of households in TA has risen year-on-year. Between October and December 2022, the number of households in temporary accommodation rose by 5.2% on the previous year, and 2.5% on the previous quarter.

DLUHC publishes quarterly statistics on the number of households in TA. The latest available statistics are from October 2022, estimating that there were 101,300 households in TA with a total of 127, 220 dependent children. A household can include single adults, couples or families with children, so the number of individuals in TA will be somewhat higher.

By October 2022, single adult households had increased by 4.9%.

The number of households placed in B&Bs has also increased. By October 2022, there were 12,220 households in B&B-style accommodation (10,000 in the last quarter), with 2,980 of these households having dependent children.

DLUHC doesn’t provide a breakdown that makes it possible to count individuals in TA, but Shelter recently published an estimate of approximately 250,000 individuals, based on freedom of information requests. This is about the size of the population of the City of Westminster.

Uncounted people in homeless Temporary Accommodation

These numbers reflect what is known, or in some cases a projected estimate based on previous numbers. The true number will be different again. What they don’t tell us is how many people have found their way into temporary accommodation without statutory support, including some who were found not to be in ‘priority need’ by their local authority. Previous research by Justlife suggests that this number could be ten times as great as what is shown in official statistics. If this is true, Westminster no longer offers a comparable population size; we’re looking at Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds combined.

While it is not possible to know exactly what the true scale is, we do know that a significant proportion of temporary accommodation occupancy goes below the radar; official statistics report a conservative estimate so even with freedom of information requests, many will remain uncounted.

We also know that, with the cost of living crisis turning more people into poverty, and an increasing number of landlords choosing to leave the market either to sell up or turn their properties into more lucrative holiday homes, the numbers of people finding themselves without a home are likely to increase.

How much do Local Authorities spend on Temporary Accommodation

As these numbers go up, so does Local Authority expenditure on temporarily housing those who they owe a duty of care, or while it is being investigated whether they do. According to the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977, this includes people who are unintentionally homeless and in priority need.

Analysis of expenditure by local authorities over the year 2021/22 reportedly showed councils spent at least £1.6 billion on temporary accommodation. This is up from £845 million in 2015-16, which again was a 39% increase since 2010-11 according to a report from the National Audit Office. The beneficiaries of this expenditure are often private providers. Nearly 80% of temporary accommodation for homeless households is met by using the private rented sector, as local authorities' social housing stock does not match the scale of the need.

This money could be better spent moving people into social rented accommodation. A 2021 report by the Chartered Institute of Housing found that moving each family from TA into social rented accommodation would save about £7,760 per year.

Add to that the lifelong negative impact many people will experience after a prolonged period in TA, and the public purse will pay an even higher price in benefits, pressure on the health service and loss of potential tax income.

And that doesn’t even begin to take the moral imperative into account. To get a sense of the impact life in TA has on those unfortunate enough to stay there, have a look at the report from the APPG for Households in TA, following our call for evidence.