RISING NUMBERS OF HOMELESS  PEOPLE are being placed in bed and breakfast accommodation due to a severe shortage of housing, meaning councils are being forced to spend over five times as much money on accommodation as they were a decade ago, new analysis by the Local Government Association reveals.

The atest figures show that councils in England spent £142 million placing homeless households in bed and breakfasts in 2019/20, compared with £26.7 million in 2010/11: a 430 per cent increase.

Currently, there are 10,510 households in bed and breakfasts, according to provisional data, compared with 2,310 a decade ago – more than a 350 per cent increase.

Ahead of this week’s LGA Virtual Annual Conference which will see over 1,500 council leaders and officials join together to discuss the most pressing issues facing the country, councils say this underlines the desperate need to build more social housing.

During the coronavirus crisis, central and local government have shown what can be achieved when they work together towards a shared goal with councils demonstrating their ability to lead and delivery on the most pressing issues facing residents right across the nation. As we recover from the pandemic, the LGA wants to work even more closely with government to tackle the current housing shortage and is calling for councils to be given further powers and resources to build 100,000 social homes for rent each year.

With previous LGA analysis showing council housing waiting lists could double as a result of the pandemic, giving councils these new powers would help the government to meet a third of its annual housing target and reduce homelessness. By reforming Right to Buy so that councils could retain 100 per cent of receipts, having flexibility to combine right to receipts with other Government grants and being able to set the size of discounts locally, councils could go even further.

The LGA says these measures would enable councils to significantly boost the number of new homes built, supported by the right infrastructure.

Polling by the LGA has also found that 80 per cent of MPs and 88 per cent of Peers think councils should have more financial freedoms and powers to build new homes.

Cllr David Renard, LGA housing spokesperson, said: “Sadly, these figures reflect the scale of the housing challenges that our country faces. Councils will only use bed and breakfasts as a last resort, but the severe lack of suitable housing means they now have no choice. This is hugely disruptive to families with children, and the rising demand for support has come with soaring costs for councils.

“Throughout the pandemic, government has trusted councils to get on with the job of protecting the nation, supporting people and putting infrastructures in place to help with recovery. We want to continue this momentum and work with government to tackle the shortage of housing and build the homes the country desperately needs.

“With the right funding and freedoms, councils can help government achieve its ambitions for our national recovery from the pandemic. Giving councils the powers to build council housing on the scale required, would go a significant way towards reducing homelessness and the need to place households in bed and breakfasts.”

The LGA has set out a six-point plan to help prevent and reduce homelessness.

  1. Bringing forward the Government’s pledge to end ‘no fault evictions’, which will prevent more households from becoming homeless.
  2. Improved protection through the welfare system, including maintaining the £20 per week increase in Universal Credit, due to end in September 2021 and maintaining Local Housing Allowance rates at the lowest third of market rents.
  3. An immediate review of the impact of the overall benefits cap in the context of the pandemic.
  4. Ensuring that councils have enough resources to support households at risk of homelessness. This includes restoration of local welfare funding to at least £250 million a year and a review of the Discretionary Housing Payment scheme, so that councils can continue to play a vital role in alleviating financial hardship.
  5. Powers for councils to acquire empty homes, including making it easier to use Compulsory Purchase Order powers to buy properties and help move households on from temporary accommodation.
  6. Setting out plans to deliver a step-change in social housing – the LGA is calling for 100,000 social homes for rent to be delivered every year.

* Source: Local Government Association