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Public and charity sectors demand government intervention to tackle homelessness crisis

White City Housing Estate woman walking
White City Housing Estate woman walking

London’s voluntary sector and local and regional government are calling on politicians to take action to improve the lives of tens of thousands of London households stuck in temporary accommodation.

London's Deputy Mayor for Housing Tom Copley joins the London Housing Panel – a group of 15 voluntary organisations - and the London Housing Directors Group (LHDG), made up of senior officers from every borough in the city, in an open letter to Michael Gove. They argue urgent action is needed as the country’s acute homelessness crisis in London worsens.

The plea comes as the number of households living in temporary accommodation reaches its highest level since 2005, with over 100,000 households across England affected. Almost 60% of these households are in London.

Many families are moved to temporary accommodation far from their previous home, and stuck in temporary accommodation for long periods of time. This can have a damaging and lasting impact on people’s work, education, health and finances.

The letter reaffirms the commitment of the capital's housing directors to collaborate and support all boroughs in efforts to improve the situation. However, they say local government alone cannot solve the problem without government intervention.

The collaboration between London’s public and charity sectors presents a united front in the face of the deepening homelessness crisis.

Their call to the government is clear: immediate action to support low-income Londoners in insecure housing that offers them a chance to rebuild their lives.

They urge the government to address the challenge of sourcing suitable temporary accommodation and securing more affordable homes, in particular homes at social rent, for homeless households to move into.

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 temporary accommodation 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.

The letter also highlights the need for consistent standards. Temporary accommodation often lacks decent amenities to cook, do laundry, access the internet or allow children to play safely, which in turn affects child health and development. 

In addition, the group calls for the raising of Local Housing Allowance (LHA) levels, meaning fewer people become homeless and making it easier for councils to source temporary accommodation. It also urges an immediate increase in Discretionary Housing Payment funding to support local authorities through the current crisis.

More than 160,000 Londoners are homeless and relying on over-crowded, expensive temporary accommodation. For too many families, their stay in this accommodation is far from temporary, and has devastating impacts on their health, wellbeing and lives. This isn’t acceptable. The government must act urgently to address this crisis: invest in more social homes and raise LHA rates so that people of all incomes can afford to continue to live in their city, and bring in national standards so that when people do have to stay in temporary accommodation, their stay is safe, healthy and short.

Dinah Roake, Chair of the London Housing Panel

The number of London households in temporary accommodation has been growing for some time and is now at crisis point, at its highest level since 2005. Rather than a short-lived stepping stone back into a safe, settled home, Londoners and their children are ending up stuck in unsuitable accommodation for months or even years at a time, lacking the stability, amenities and support they desperately need. The Government must urgently step up to invest in affordable and social rented homes for homeless households to move into, alongside increasing standards and regulation and ensuring that welfare benefits adequately cover the housing costs of people who are in need. Only this will address housing inequalities in London and ensure that a stay in temporary accommodation is safe, healthy and short.

Tom Copley, Deputy Mayor for Housing & Residential Development

London’s housing crisis is getting worse. The recent unprecedented reduction in the availability of private rented accommodation combined with skyrocketing rents represent a full-blown emergency. We estimate there are now as many homeless Londoners as there are residents in cities the size of Blackburn or Oxford. Without sufficient affordable accommodation to house these Londoners in the capital there are clear implications that will reverberate across the country. No London borough wants to place families in B&B or hotel accommodation as we recognise that such conditions have a highly negative impact on residents, particularly children. However, we’ve been left with no other options and need to ensure families at least have a roof over their head. The government must act now by increasing Local Housing Allowance rates and providing boroughs with emergency funding to support homelessness prevention.

Jamie Carswell, Co-Chair, London Housing Directors Group & Director of Housing and Safer Communities at Royal Borough of Greenwich

Notes to editor:

  • The most recent Statutory Homelessness data from DLUHC (2022, Q4) show that there were 101,300 households in Temporary Accommodation throughout England, of which 58,370 households (58%) were in London. There were 38,480 households with children, amounting to 75,580 children in TA in London. Data from London Councils show that figures are escalating.  
  • Temporary accommodation is used for other purposes beyond statutory homelessness, including asylum seeking households where there is a housing duty to protect children. 

13 July 2023

Read the full letter

To co-sign the letter on behalf of your organisation, use this form.