London Councils, the cross-party body representing London’s local authorities, has repeated its call for “an emergency response” to the capital’s homelessness crisis, as new research published by the charity Crisis underlines that London has seen a sharp rise in the worst manifestations of it.
Responding to Crisis describing councils across England as “running out of options” for meeting demand from people with no proper place to live, Darren Rodwell, executive member for regeneration, housing and planning with London Councils, said “urgent action from the government at national level” is required to help deal with “increasingly unmanageable pressures” in a situation “fast-becoming disastrous”.
The research, an annual monitor of homelessness in England funded by Crisis and Heriot-Watt University, records that “core homelessness” – meaning people who sleep rough or in cars or sheds, in hostels, refuges, shelters or unsuitable bed and breakfast accommodation, or who “sofa surf” in other people’s houses – rose sharply in England last year compared with 2020 and is expected keep rising for the long term “particularly in London” where the number affected is projected to exceed 300,000 by 2041 – 37 per cent up compared with 2020.
Recent research by London Councils itself estimated that almost 170,000 Londoners are currently housed in temporary accommodation – nearly half of them children – a number that exceeds the population of Oxford and equates to one London in 50 and one child in every London classroom.
There has also been a massive of increase in the number of London households stuck in bed and breakfast accommodation beyond the legal six-week limit – close to 1,300 as of April 2023 compared with just 146 in the same month of 2022.
The Crisis and Heriot-Watt monitor says the number of people seen rough sleeping in England grew particularly rapidly in London in 2022, with around half of them non-UK nationals, of whom many will have no recourse to public funds. The upwards trend is described as having been “recently renewed” following a reduction during the Covid-19 pandemic as extra funds were made available under the “everyone in” initiative.
London Councils estimates that the capital’s 32 boroughs are between them spending at least £60 million a month on temporary accommodation costs. It continues to urge the national government to raise levels of Local Housing Allowance, the housing benefit paid to households who rent from private landlords in order to make more dwellings in the capital affordable for them.
The group is also asking for councils to be given financial help with buying homes listed for sale in London by private landlords who are leaving the market, and for assisting households with avoiding homelessness in the first place.
A “cross-departmental strategy” for reducing homelessness is also requested. “Ministers must work with councils and other partners across the housing and homelessness sectors to reverse these trends,” Rodwell said. “There are at least 143,000 potential new homes we could begin building immediately in London if the government addressed the barriers to delivery, including by providing additional infrastructure and affordable housing grant funding.”