Over 3,500 properties that had been available for Londoners needing a temporary place to live were withdrawn by landlords between last September and April 2023 according to new figures – more than double the number lost during the equivalent period of 2021-22.
London Councils, the body representing the capital’s 33 local authorities, which compiled the figures from a survey of its members, says the shrinkage represents a loss of six per cent of London’s temporary accommodation stock at a time when it estimates almost 170,000 Londoners are already officially homeless and temporarily housed – roughly one Londoner in 50 – with the number on the rise.
“Turbulence in the private rented sector,” is the cause of the growing problem, said Darren Rodwell, London Councils Executive Member for Regeneration, Housing and Planning. “The combination of fast-rising private rents and a dramatic fall in the availability of rental properties is driving housing pressures in the capital to new extremes.”
The upshot for borough council is increasing difficulty finding dwellings for families and individuals entitled to their help, leading to greater numbers being placed in bed and breakfast accommodation, Rodwell added.
London Councils calculates that nearly 1,300 London families were living in what it calls “unsuitable B&B accommodation in April 2023, compared to just 146 during the same month last year. It also believes the number of households in the capital entitled to boroughs’ help rose by 15.2 per cent during the year to April 2023.
Escalating homelessness responsibilities add to the financial strain faced by the boroughs, with total spending on temporary accommodation running close to £60 million a month and going up, London Councils says.
The cross-party body has renewed its call for the Conservative national government to increase the level of Local Housing Allowance, the benefit support for private sector tenants which has been frozen since 2020 despite rents rising since then, which would bring more homes within the range of homeless people.
It has also again asked for boroughs to be given help to buy homes put up for sale by private landlords, along with more financial help to prevent people falling into homelessness in the first place.
“The homelessness situation in London is becoming unmanageable,” Rodwell said. “We need the government to treat this as the emergency it is and work with us on reversing the numbers relying on temporary accommodation”.