London’s forgotten homeless
7 Aug 2014
How have we got into a situation in London where being homeless could mean:
a) Living in insecure temporary accommodation for up to 23 years
b) Living in temporary accommodation up to 200 miles away
c) Subject to the benefit cap with a £100 per week shortfall, putting you at risk of arrears and eviction?
A heady combination of a housing shortage, inadequate government support with housing costs, some private landlords taking advantage of desperate councils, and the benefit cap.
Temporary accommodation is meant to provide suitable and temporary accommodation for homeless households. But our research out today shows it’s not temporary for some households – and for some households it’s no longer affordable.
So what did we find?
Our results found in 17 London councils over a third of households in TA had been there over 2 years, and nearly 500 households had been there for over 10 years.
Our results indicates a gradual displacement of households (and therefore pressure on housing stock) from inner London to outer London. The majority of households placed out of area by inner London boroughs are placed in outer London. Enfield is hosting at least 1000 households on behalf of other London boroughs.
The pressure on outer London councils is having a knock on effect. Just look at where the biggest rises in placing people out of area has been, according to the government’s own statistics:
Source: P1E Homelessness statistics, Q4 2011 compared to Q4 2013
We also found that an estimated one in 4 London households in temporary accommodation could be affected by the benefit cap, which seems like a perverse joke.
Today’s DWP figures show there were 12,523 households subject to the benefit cap in London at the end of May.
Enfield, who we now know have absorbed over 1000 homeless households from London councils, also have the highest number of households subject to the benefit cap nationally.
According to our estimates in London alone around 3,100 households are likely to be homeless and subject to the benefit cap. This is a conservative estimate and below DWP’s own estimate which was that 4,600 homeless households would be subject to the benefit cap.
Last but not least we found that hundreds of homeless families subject to the benefit cap have a rent shortfall but are not yet in receipt of help in the form of Discretionary Housing Payments.
It’s far from clear where these legally homeless households who are presumably racking up mountains of rent arrears will end up.
So what’s going on?
TA costs are high putting councils in a difficult position when looking for suitable placements in high cost areas – and now meaning thousands of homeless households are subject to the benefit cap.
LHA rates are out of touch adding to the difficulties of placing households in suitable accommodation and meaning that moving households on from temporary accommodation into suitable accommodation is a massive challenge.
Some landlords prefer not to let to housing benefit claimants putting the landlords who do let to people on Housing Benefit in a powerful position. We even know that some are getting incentivised by councils to take homeless households in.
There’s no doubt that within this heady mix, London’s homeless are being forgotten in more ways than one.
More homes are needed, and in the interim, the government must act to put protections in place to end this perverse merry-go-round before it gets into full swing.