The homes we need

This is a clear value shared by people around the UK – it goes against what we stand for to see people homeless on our streets.

For too many people, the prospect of the stable home on which you can build a better life is a distant dream because of high rents, unstable tenancies and low incomes.

Nine out of 10 councils recently told us that more and more people in their area on the lowest incomes will become homeless because the freeze on local housing allowance (LHA) and other benefits means they can’t afford to pay their rents.

The Homelessness Monitor: England, which was published in May by Crisis, with the support of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), paints a stark – but, to many of us, unsurprising – picture of the challenges facing councils as the number of homes that people in the most vulnerable circumstances can afford dwindles.

Even if you are not made homeless, high housing costs and inappropriate housing can impact on almost every aspect of your life. Families locked in poverty by their housing situation often find that they end up with everything else restricted and restrained – their diet, their health, their relationships and the activities in which their children can take part.

Of the local authorities surveyed for the report, 88 per cent said there is not enough social housing in their area for those who need it – including for those on the brink of homelessness. The report highlights the growing pressure councils are under, with seven out of 10 reporting a rise in demand for their homelessness services in the last year.

This is a nationwide issue, not just affecting London or the South; more than three-quarters of councils in the North reported a rise in the need for their services, as did more than two-thirds in the Midlands.

Eight years into the cuts to LHA – and with a freeze to the benefit from 2016 – those who need it the most aren’t able to cover their housing costs, leaving them adrift from what should be their anchor: a stable home.

There is action we can take as a country to fix the problem, starting by ensuring housing, social security and work offer reliable routes out of poverty.

The Government’s recent announcement to end no-fault evictions shows that there is a shared appetite to work towards creating the stable homes we need, and to prevent people presenting as homeless because of the actions of their landlords.

The homelessness monitor’s findings, however, show us that legal security is not enough on its own. We must also ensure the right kind of homes are made available to everyone who needs them, with adequate support to meet the financial costs of renting.

There is still a long way to go before we fill the vast gap between the homes we have and the homes we need. Crisis and JRF are calling on the Government to urgently address the issues underpinning homelessness by building more social housing and restoring LHA rates in universal credit to ensure it truly covers the cost of rent. This is the only way to keep people at risk of homelessness safe.

For more information about the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, please visit www.jrf.org.uk.

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