Families are “the new face of London’s homeless”

15:01 13 November 2012

The National Housing Federation has released a report on homelessness. File picture: Rebecca Naden/PA Wire

The National Housing Federation has released a report on homelessness. File picture: Rebecca Naden/PA Wire

PA Wire/Press Association Images

A lack of affordable housing, wages failing to keep up with a rise in housing costs, and the economic situation in Britain are leading to more families being at risk of homelessness in London, a housing organisation has said.

Homelessness in the capital has risen sharply since 2010 after steadily falling for seven years, according to the National Housing Federation (NHF), with an 82 per cent increase in pregnant women or families with children living in B&Bs compared to 2011.

The group said the “new face” of homelessness was “families who never dreamed they could end up on the streets”.

According to the NHF’s Homeless Bound report, the number of people accepted as homeless in the capital has risen by 34 per cent in the last two years, while the number of people sleeping rough is up 43 per cent in the last year to 5,678.

Homeless Bound also warns that the number of London families with children staying in B&Bs for more than six weeks rocketed by 385 per cent in 2012, as local authorities struggled to find temporary accommodation for the growing numbers of homeless households.

The NHF said homelessness is increasingly affecting private renters, with one in five new cases of homelessness in London and nationwide caused by a private tenancy ending.

Michelle Smith, London lead manager at the NHF, said: “Today’s figures are shocking and highlight how many Londoners are being pushed to the brink.

“Our report shows that private renters – who make up 25 per cent of Londoners today and an even greater proportion in the future – are increasingly at risk of losing the roof over their heads.

“Alongside the terrible rise in rough sleepers, many more children are now being pushed into temporary accommodation such as B&Bs. These are families who never dreamed they could end up on the streets. This is the new face of London’s homeless.

“We spend around £1billion a year nationwide on trying to prevent homelessness, which is the sharp end of a housing crisis that has been years in the making.

“The only long-term solution that will work is to build more homes that people can afford, whether for sale or rent. Only then will we truly be able to protect people from the traumatic experience of homelessness.”

The NHF recommends a series of steps to tackle homelessness, including saying the government should “step up efforts to help councils ensure that no household with children spends more than six weeks in bed and breakfast accommodation”, and “make advice and support available to help tenants” when it implements the new Universal Credit system.

The report said: “Homelessness is not a new problem, but it does take on new faces as local and national policies change and economic turbulence creates new dynamics. The years to come will be challenging for anyone involved in tackling homelessness and the Federation will continue to push homelessness and affordable housing up the government’s agenda, especially in these straitened times.”

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