The number of people forced into homelessness is expected to more than double to half a million by 2041 unless the government takes immediate action, a homelessness charity has warned.
Analysis by Heriot-Watt University for Crisis has found that the number of homeless people in Britain will reach 575,000, up from 236,000 in 2016. The number of people sleeping rough will more than quadruple from 9,100 in 2016 to 40,100 over the same period, the research found.
The forecast, released to mark the 50th anniversary of Crisis, comes as the number of homeless households has jumped by a third in the past five years. The majority of those affected are “sofa surfers”, with 68,300 people sleeping on other people’s couches.
The biggest rise will be for those placed by a council in unsuitable accommodation, such as bed and breakfasts, with the total expected to rise from 19,300 to 117,500.
Crisis has urged the government to build more affordable housing and launch a concerted effort to tackle rough sleeping.
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “With the right support at the right time, it doesn’t need to be inevitable … Together we can find the answers and make sure those in power listen to them.”
Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, said that homelessness had become the bulk of her workload. “The government needs to wake up … The system is broken. Without more social housing, a flood of good temporary accommodation and investment in homelessness support the problem will get worse.”
Jim McMahon, Labour MP for Oldham West and Royton, said: “This is a crisis of the government’s own making. Deliberate and targeted policies and cuts in welfare, housing and community support have made a bad situation terrible.”
Jacqui McCluskey, director of policy and communications at the charity Homeless Link, said the predictions were extremely concerning. “It is unacceptable that anyone should have no other option than to sleep on the streets or live in poor-quality temporary accommodation, and we must continue to act to ensure the current situation not only improves but definitely does not worsen.”
The report found that the problems will be more acute in England compared with Scotland, with London particularly affected. The capital is forecast to account for more than half of England’s homeless population by 2041.
Rosena Allin-Khan, Labour MP for Tooting, said: “The mayor of London is tackling the housing crisis, securing record investment. We must now ensure councils across London are given the powers to get building – and are held to account if they fail to do so.
“Homelessness in the UK in 2017 should not be an inevitability and it should be the responsibility of all in government to ensure that it is not.”
The Crisis report said that a 60% increase in new housing could reduce levels of homelessness by 19% by 2036, while increased prevention work could reduce levels by 34% in the same period.
John Healey, the shadow housing secretary, said homelessness was a national scandal. “This is a direct result of decisions made by Conservative ministers: a steep drop in investment for affordable homes, crude cuts to housing benefit, reduced funding for homelessness services and a refusal to help private renters,” he said.
Crisis is calling on the public to support its Everybody In campaign to end the worst forms of homelessness. Sparkes said: “Now is the time for action and long-term planning to end homelessness for good.”
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said: “This government is determined to help the most vulnerable in society and we’re working to make sure people always have a roof over their head. We know this is an issue government can’t solve alone and so welcome Crisis’s support for our commitment to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping.
“Alongside investing £550m to 2020 to address the issue, we’re implementing the Homelessness Reduction Act, which will require councils to provide early support to people at risk of becoming homeless.”
The act is due to come into effect next year. It includes funding of £61m for 2017-18 and 2018-19. The DCLG said it is considering further funding for high-pressure areas.
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