This July marks 12 months since we made our first grants under the Better Temporary Accommodation for Londoners initiative, in partnership with Oak Foundation. Here we provide an update on the work, and the ongoing challenges faced by Londoners living in temporary accommodation (TA).
Since the Millennium, the number of social rented homes in London has fallen by about 75,000, or 10%. This means that local authorities rely on privately rented TA to house homeless families. As well as flats or houses, temporary accommodation can be a studio or annex in a block, a hostel or hotel room, or another type of housing.
London Councils estimates that 160,000 Londoners are living in TA, 60% of the national total. The Still Living in Limbo research report by Shelter, published in March 2023 and co-funded by Trust for London, showed the damaging and lasting impact living in TA has on people’s work, education, health and finances.
We want every Londoner on a low income to have a secure, decent, affordable place to live. And our ultimate goal is for the use of TA to become unnecessary, through the large-scale provision of social rented homes.
In the meantime, every family living in TA should be able to expect their stay to be short, safe and healthy. We set out to support work that reduced the isolation of people living in TA and the organisations working to support them, as well as move towards strengthening the voices, connections and influence of people affected. It should never have been acceptable for temporary tenants to be ignored for so long.
Our work so far
It's been a busy year, and our funded partners have been making great progress. Successes we’ve celebrated include:
- Creating Ground’s #NoticeUs campaign has secured commitment from Greenwich Council to work with them to provide digital access to families in Temporary Accommodation.
- Newham Council promised to extend its landlord licensing scheme to TA, which will benefit members of London Renters Union and The Magpie Project.
- JustLife has forged ahead in establishing new Temporary Accommodation Action Groups in three London boroughs to add to the existing one in Hackney.
Meanwhile other partners continue to draw attention to the thousands of people living in sub-standard, unsuitable, overcrowded homes. The difficulties experienced by Councils in finding places for homeless families have led to hundreds of families living in hotels for extended periods, as well as an increasing number of families being placed in accommodation outside of their borough, away from their networks and where they have built their lives. This has particular impact on families with children, those accessing health services or those whose community connections (e.g. to ethnic or religious communities) are hard to replicate in other locations.
While some change is possible through campaigning and working collaboratively at local authority level, important levers sit with central Government. Over the summer our funded partners will be pushing forward to engage with decision-makers.
1) On 5 July, we'll be hosting a webinar on new research about the supply of homes to the lower end of the London private rented sector, where most homes used for TA come from. This is the most rigorous, independent evidence on what is happening to supply in London and why it’s so hard for people on low incomes to find a home. Sign up for your place here.
2) The London Housing Panel (a hosted partnership between Trust for London, the Mayor of London and 15 voluntary sector organisations) is preparing a joint letter with the Mayor of London and the London Housing Directors Group. This will set out a shared policy position for London across the voluntary sector, local and regional government. We'll be inviting organisations and individuals to add their names in July, look out for updates.
3) We’re commissioning a rapid review of London local authorities’ policy and practice on TA, with a call for proposals that closed in mid-June. This will explore local authorities’ stated policies and implementation. The research has been co-developed with Better TA funded partners and will be used to support campaigners and to highlight the pervasive nature of the crisis at local levels and build the case for change.
4) A planned event in September 2023 will showcase some of our partners’ work and celebrate the ways in which people in TA are speaking up and becoming advocates. The event will include a community lunch which TA tenants will be invited to join.
5) We're partnering with Law for Life to offer a short course on housing rights to organisations working with people in TA, as well as policy forums, a legal clinic and up-to-date online resources. Law for Life consulted on course content in the spring, and will publicise autumn course dates and sign-up details soon. Law for Life’s Advicenow site gets around 2 million hits a year and it's YouTube channel is also well worth a look.
6) The London Housing Panel is collaborating with London Councils to develop a pilot of encounters between people with experience of TA and frontline local authority housing staff. We hope this will encourage trauma-informed practice and improve the experiences of people presenting as homeless.
7) We continue to work with other funders in the sector, such as Oak Foundation, to help steer resources to benefit people in TA and those at risk of becoming homeless.
Many of our funded partners are starting to see early results from projects within their communities. Watch this space.
A thank you
Last but definitely not least, we want to recognise those who are doing difficult work at the frontline of the crisis, and those affected for whom just feeding themselves and their family and going to school or work has become a marathon because of their housing. We are also enormously grateful to our programme partners Leila Baker and Mary Carter for the support they provide to the organisations working on this, enabling more honest conversations and a better power dynamic. I’m hoping that we’ll look back in 10 years and be glad of the work we did now.