This report from Shelter, with support from Trust for London, looks at the reality of life in temporary accommodation for tens of thousands of people. To produce the report, Shelter conducted research with 1,112 people living in temporary accommodation. This is the largest ever survey with this group. The surveyed sample reached across England and was broadly representative of all households in temporary accommodation. The research and analysis was guided by a steering group of experts by experience and grassroots organisations.
Over the last decade, the number of social rented homes in England has fallen by more than 100,000. Into this void has emerged ‘temporary accommodation’. This is accommodation councils offer to homeless households while they wait for their application for help to be processed and to be offered a settled home.
Temporary accommodation was never intended to exist outside of emergencies. But it’s now accommodating almost 100,000 households, including over 125,000 children. And its use is on the rise. The number of households living in temporary accommodation has doubled in the last ten years. Temporary accommodation is often far from a temporary arrangement. The majority of households live there for a year or more.
HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF HOMELESS PEOPLE ARE LIVING IN DANGEROUS, SLUM-LIKE CONDITIONS
- Three-quarters (75%) of households live in poor conditions, including one in five (21%) with a safety hazard, such as faulty wiring or fire risks
- More than two thirds (68%) of people have inadequate access to basic facilities - such as cooking or laundry facilities
- More than one in three (35%) parents say their children do not have their own bed
TEMPORARY ACCOMMODATION ISN’T TEMPORARY
- Six in ten (61%) households have spent a year or more living in temporary accommodation, increasing to more than two thirds (68%) of families
- Some people live in temporary accommodation for decades
LIFE IN TEMPORARY ACCOMMODATION IS PROFOUNDLY UNSTABLE AND UNCERTAIN
- Three in ten (30%) households have lived in three or more temporary accommodation places. One person had moved fourteen times
- Two thirds (62%) of people were given less than 48 hours’ notice when they were last moved between temporary accommodation placements
PEOPLE ARE OFTEN MOVED FAR FROM THEIR HOME AREA, CAUSING EVEN GREATER DISRUPTION
- More than one in four (27%) households were placed more than an hour from their previous home
- One in five (19%) families with school age children have to travel more than an hour to get to school
PEOPLE FEEL TRAPPED AND POWERLESS TO IMPROVE THEIR SITUATION
- One in four (26%) waited more than eight weeks for an urgent repair
- More than four in ten (43%) feel they have been ignored when trying to get in touch with their temporary accommodation provider
FIRST AND FOREMOST, TEMPORARY ACCOMMODATION SHOULD BE BARELY USED
A temporary house can never be a home. It wasn’t designed to provide anything other than a brief stay, while the administrative process of assessing an application was completed and a suitable home offered.
TEMPORARY ACCOMMODATION MUST BE TIME-LIMITED
Living in temporary accommodation longer-term is especially damaging. The government must give much greater priority for suitable social housing and/or much more help into a suitable private rental to individuals and families who have spent more than one year in temporary accommodation. This might be challenging in areas with a high need for family-sized social housing, such as London.
TEMPORARY ACCOMMODATION MUST BE WELL-MANAGED
People in temporary accommodation are at a vulnerable point in their lives. Yet private temporary accommodation providers, who charge very high rates, are unregistered and unregulated. The government must strengthen standards, increase transparency about providers’ performance and – most importantly – require enforcement by a strong national regulator. Regulation must be Westminster’s responsibility.
TEMPORARY ACCOMMODATION MUST BE PERSON-CENTRED
People, and especially families with children, must be offered adequate support to recover from the shock that led to homelessness while they are living in temporary accommodation. There’s also a need for greater input from people in temporary accommodation.