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England faces 'homelessness crisis'


A homeless man on the streets of London (file)

A homeless man on the streets of London (file)

A homeless man on the streets of London (file)

Housing campaigners have warned that England is "sleepwalking into a homelessness crisis" after official figures showed that numbers of households in temporary accommodation have reached almost 65,000 - the highest since 2008.

Some 13,520 households were accepted as homeless in the first three months of this year across England, 8% up on the same period in 2014.

And 2,570 families with children were living in emergency B&B accommodation - a rise of 35% compared with the first quarter of last year and the highest level since 2003.

Campaigners said high private-sector rents and cuts to housing benefits were largely to blame, pointing to figures showing that the largest single cause of homelessness - cited in 29% of cases accepted by councils - was the loss of an assured shorthold tenancy with a private landlord.

Jon Sparkes, the chief executive of Crisis, said: " Clearly something is going badly wrong with our private rented sector. More and more households are struggling to pay their rent in an increasingly insecure market, while cuts to housing benefit have left the safety net in tatters. For anyone finding themselves in difficulty, the prospects are decidedly bleak.

"England is sleepwalking into a homelessness crisis, and we've yet to hear what our new Government intends to do about it. Local authorities are in an impossible situation. We need decisive political action to fix our broken private rented sector, along with radical solutions to tackle the severe shortage of affordable homes. At the same time, we must have a safety net that genuinely protects tenants struggling to make ends meet."

Homelessness charity Shelter pointed to the growing number of children affected by homelessness. A total of 93,320 children were living in temporary accommodation - around 15% more than the same period last year and the highest number since 2008. The 64,710 households in temporary accommodation included 48,880 families with children.

Shelter chief executive Campbell Robb said: "Today's figures are a glaring reminder of the impact welfare cuts and our drought of genuinely affordable homes is having on families and children in England.

"Further welfare cuts could make this a whole lot worse. If the Government really wants to heal the housing crisis and bring down the benefit bill for good, the only solution is to invest in building homes that people on low incomes can actually afford."

Henry Gregg, assistant director of communications and campaigns at housing association body the National Housing Federation, described the statistics as "a shameful reminder of Britain's housing crisis".

"The causes of homelessness are equally concerning," said Mr Gregg. "Some 16,000 households were made homeless this year because their tenancy ended and their landlord turfed them out - this is the highest in a decade.

"Successive Governments have failed to build enough homes for decades, and this is the result. Housing associations want to build the homes these people and this country need. The Government must back this ambition by bringing forward land and providing proper investment to help end the housing crisis."

Rick Henderson, chief executive of umbrella body Homeless Link, added: " It is disappointing to see an increase in the number of households approaching their council for help with homelessness. We are concerned that the economic recovery is not being shared by all and leaving behind the most vulnerable, especially in light of figures last week showing a 16% rise in rough sleeping in London."

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: "This Government is making sure that action is being taken to ensure that all homeless people have access to the help they need to get back on their feet.

"Since 2010, we have increased spending to prevent homelessness, making over £500 million available to local authorities and the voluntary sector to support the most vulnerable in society and put strong protections in place to guard people against the threat of homelessness. This is to ensure there is no return to the days 10 years ago, when homelessness in England was nearly double what it is today."

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