Warning that borough councils “face complete lack of other options” for keeping homeless families off the streets, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter
Fresh concerns have been raised over the lack of accommodation for London’s homeless, as new data reveals how families with children are increasingly left in B&Bs for extended periods.
Statistics from London Councils, a cross-party grouping of the capital’s borough authorities, reveal a 781% increase in homeless families placed in bed-and-breakfast accommodation – which includes any form of nightly-paid accommodation – beyond the legal six-week limit.
This equates to 1,287 London families stuck in B&Bs in April 2023 beyond six weeks compared to 146 in the same month last year. In June the Dispatch revealed there were 113 homeless families from Enfield in the same situation – meaning they represent around 9% of the London total.
The figures come as more than 60 organisations, politicians and experts have now signed an open letter to Housing Secretary Michael Gove, calling for action on homelessness in London.
The government says it has committed £2bn to tackling the crisis and that B&Bs should only be used “as a last resort”.
London Councils also warned that there has been a 140% increase in landlords quitting the city’s temporary accommodation sector. The organisation said that between September 2022 and April 2023, 15 boroughs reported receiving a ‘notice to quit’ from landlords for a total of 3,531 properties in use as temporary accommodation.
This represents a 120% increase on the 1,601 notices received over the same period in 2021/22, and is equivalent to a loss of 6% of London’s total temporary accommodation stock.
Labour councillor Darren Rodwell, the group’s executive member for housing, said of the rising number of families in B&Bs: “Nobody wants this happening, but boroughs face a complete lack of other options for keeping a roof over an increasing number of homeless families’ heads.”
The increasing numbers of Londoners becoming homeless is being largely caused by private rents becoming less affordable.
The dwindling availability of temporary accommodation is meanwhile thought to be fuelled by landlords leaving the sector in favour of more profit, often by moving their properties onto the open market.
Rodwell, who also serves as leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, said the situation was “becoming unmanageable”, adding: “We need the government to treat this as the emergency it is and work with us in reversing the numbers relying on temporary accommodation.”
This could be achieved, he said, through a number of measures – including an increase to Local Housing Allowance, which has been frozen since 2020.
An increase to the amount of benefit paid out would strengthen councils’ ability to offer attractive deals to private landlords, keeping them in the temporary accommodation sector.
A letter to Michael Gove has separately been sent on the issue of London’s homelessness crisis, jointly authored by London’s deputy mayor for housing Tom Copley, the London Housing Panel – a collection of 15 NGOs – and the London Housing Directors Group, representing senior housing officers in every borough.
It has accrued more than 60 signatories, including from the charity Shelter, and the Green Party’s 2024 London mayoral candidate Zoë Garbett.
Among its requests are to prevent homelessness by “investing in the next generation of social rented homes”, as well as raising standards in the sector by introducing new and enforceable national regulations, which will apply to all properties being used as temporary accommodation.
In addition, the letter calls for all families with children in temporary accommodation to be placed in housing which has a kitchen, so that meals can be prepared.
A spokesman for Gove’s ministry – the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities – said: “Temporary accommodation ensures no family is left without a roof over their head, but we have been clear that the use of B&Bs should always be a last resort.
“We have committed £2billion to support our work to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping. In London, this includes over £350million funding through the Homelessness Prevention Grant for 2023/24 and 2024/25.”