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Homelessness in England soars 11% as campaigners demand £12.8bn every year for social housing

Campaigners blame a national shortage in homes for social rent and cuts to social security benefits.

The number of people assessed by councils in England as ‘statutory homeless’ as increased by more 11% in recent months, as campaigners and charities call for a national renaissance in the building of homes for social rent.

New figures release by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government reveal that 70,340 households were assessed as ‘threatened with homelessness or homeless’ between January to March 2019, up 10.7% on the previous quarter.

Of these, 37,690 households were initially assessed as threatened with homelessness, up 10.2%, while 32,740 households were assessed as homeless, up 11.2% from 29,430 in October to December 2018.

The statistics also show that: “Between January to March 2019, 31,180 households who were owed assistance for being threatened with homelessness or homeless, secured accommodation for 6 months or more. This is up 1.3% from 30,780 the previous quarter.

“Between January to March 2019, 7,570 households were accepted as owed a main homelessness duty. This decreased 1.4% from 7,680 during October to December.

“On 31st March 2019 the number of households in temporary accommodation was 84,740, up 1.4% from 83,610 on 31st December 2018.”

Polly Neate, chief executive at Shelter, said the rise had been fuelled by “cripplingly expensive” rents and cuts to social security benefits.

“During a year where Brexit negotiations have totally dominated the political agenda, catastrophic numbers of people have become homeless”, she said.

“While the housing crisis is out of the spotlight, families with young children are trapped in grim temporary accommodation like B&Bs and shipping containers, and young people feel the damaging effects of growing up in a housing emergency.”

She added: “The government must invest in a new generation of social homes – three million more in 20 years – if they are to pull hundreds of thousands of people out of homelessness.

“And in the meantime, they must urgently increase housing benefit so that it covers at least the bottom third of private rents.”

Meanwhile, a new report from the National Housing Foundation warns that 130,000 families are forced to live in one-bed flats, due to rising rents and a shortage in social housing.

The report found that 1.3m children from more than 600,000 families are trapped in overcrowded conditions because there is nowhere else for them to live.

Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation, said: “This research shows yet another devastating impact of the broken housing market. All across the country, whole families squeeze into one-bedroom flats, children sleep three to a bed, and parents are forced to spend their night in the kitchen or a hallway.

“This is having a huge impact on more than a million children, seriously affecting their start in life. For decades, successive governments have failed to invest in social housing, and families are paying the price.

“The only way to fix the problem is by building enough social housing, which requires a radical public spending programme – there is simply no other way.

“By investing £12.8bn in affordable housing every year, the Government can finally put an end to the country’s housing problem.” 

The Government says its new ‘Rough Sleeping Initiative’ has helped to reduce the number of vulnerable people sleeping rough by 32% since March 2018.

However, it admits that more needs to be done to tackle homelessness and has provided £76 million to 246 councils to help address the problem.

Communities Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: “Since becoming Communities Secretary in July, I have been able to see first-hand the outstanding work taking place under the Rough Sleeping Initiative every single day to transform the lives of society’s most vulnerable – and these figures are proof that our strategy to end rough sleeping is working. 

“But we must keep that momentum up, which is why we have committed a record investment to tackling homelessness and rough sleeping in the months ahead – ensuring progress continues to be made and people are given the help they need to turn their lives around.”

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