New concerns over the lack of accommodation for London’s homeless

428
New concerns over the lack of accommodation for London’s homeless
Credit London Councils

Fresh concerns have been raised over the lack of accommodation for London’s homeless, as new data reveals how families with children are increasingly left in B&Bs for extended periods.

Statistics from London Councils, a cross-party grouping of the capital’s borough authorities, reveal a 781 per cent increase in homeless families placed in bed and breakfast accommodation beyond the legal six-week limit.

This equates to 1,287 London families stuck in B&B accommodation in April 2023 compared to 146 the same month last year.

The figures come as more than 60 organisations, politicians and experts have now signed an open letter to Housing Secretary Michael Gove, calling for action on homelessness in London.

The Government says it has committed £2bn to tackling the crisis and that B&Bs should only be used “as a last resort”.

NOW READ: London Mayor activates emergency heatwave response to help rough sleepers

London Councils also warned that there has been a 140 per cent increase in landlords quitting the city’s temporary accommodation sector.

The organisation said that between September 2022 and April 2023, 15 boroughs reported receiving a ‘Notice to Quit’ from landlords for a total of 3,531 properties in use as temporary accommodation.

This represents a 120 per cent increase on the 1,601 notices received over the same period in 2021-22, and is equivalent to a loss of 6 per cent of London’s total temporary accommodation stock.

Labour councillor Darren Rodwell, the group’s executive member for housing, said of the rising number of families in B&Bs: “Nobody wants this happening, but boroughs face a complete lack of other options for keeping a roof over an increasing number of homeless families’ heads.”

The increasing numbers of Londoners becoming homeless is being largely caused by private rents becoming less affordable.

The dwindling availability of temporary accommodation is meanwhile thought to be fuelled by landlords leaving the sector in favour of more profit, often by moving their properties onto the open market.

Mr Rodwell, who also serves as leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, said the situation was “becoming unmanageable”, adding: “We need the government to treat this as the emergency it is and work with us in reversing the numbers relying on temporary accommodation.”

This could be achieved, he said, through a number of measures – including an increase to Local Housing Allowance, which has been frozen since 2020.

An increase to the amount of benefit paid out would strengthen councils’ ability to offer attractive deals to private landlords, keeping them in the temporary accommodation sector.

A letter to Michael Gove has separately been sent on the issue of London’s homelessness crisis, jointly authored by London’s deputy mayor for housing Tom Copley, the London Housing Panel – a collection of 15 NGOs – and the London Housing Directors Group, representing senior housing officers in every borough.

It has accrued more than 60 signatories, including from the charity Shelter, and the Green Party’s 2024 London mayoral candidate Zoë Garbett.

Among its requests are to prevent homelessness by “investing in the next generation of social rented homes”, as well as raising standards in the sector by introducing new and enforceable national regulations, which will apply to all properties being used as temporary accommodation.

In addition, the letter calls for all families with children in temporary accommodation to be placed in housing which has a kitchen, so that meals can be prepared.

A spokesman for Mr Gove’s ministry – the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities – said: “Temporary accommodation ensures no family is left without a roof over their head, but we have been clear that the use of B&Bs should always be a last resort.

“We have committed £2 billion to support our work to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping. In London, this includes over £350 million funding through the Homelessness Prevention Grant for 2023/24 and 2024/25.”

For the latest headlines from the City of London and beyond, follow City Matters on TwitterInstagram and LinkedIn.