Number of families with children in temporary accommodation soars 37 per cent since 2014
by Felicity Collier
MORE THAN 120,000 families with children are now stuck in temporary accommodation as the Tories fail to get a grip on Britain’s social housing crisis, the Local Government Association (LGA) warned yesterday.
The latest figures for council emergency housing services represents an increase of 37 per cent since the second quarter of 2014 and equates to around 906 extra children every month — enough to fill a secondary school.
The LGA, which represents 350 councils across England, said temporary housing placements can seriously affect children’s school studies and friendships, while their parents often suffer from employment and health-related issues.
The growing crisis must be addressed by building more genuinely affordable housing, the LGA said — meaning councils must be allowed to borrow in order to reinvest in new and existing stock, keeping 100 per cent of the receipts of any homes they sell.
Association spokesman Martin Tett said: “It’s clear the current situation is unsustainable for councils and disruptive for families,” adding that the government also needs to change welfare reforms.
Local authority leaders are calling for more funding for secure, long-term accommodation for families that become homeless.
Housing charity Shelter’s director of campaigns and policy Anne Baxendale said: “Every day we speak to families desperate to escape the dingy, cramped hostel room they’re forced to live in, for weeks if not months, as overstretched councils can’t find them anywhere else.
“The government has the tools to break this cycle of heartache and homelessness.
“Firstly, they must abandon the freeze on housing benefit that’s denying thousands of families the essential top-up needed to pay for rising rents.
“And, in the longer term, they must build decent homes that families on lower incomes can actually afford to live in.”
Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said: “These figures show that the lack of a decent, secure home will impact on the education of tens of thousands of children.
“The Tories’ failure to build the housing that families need is now hitting the life chances of a whole generation. We want every child to succeed, but that needs investment in housing as well as education — but instead we are facing more Tory cuts to both.”
Related research published by Shelter this month found that only 68 per cent of the homes given planning permission over the last five years have been built, leaving a shortfall of 324,000 homes.
The phenomenon, which the charity branded “phantom homes,” is at its worst in London where 52 per cent of homes remain unbuilt.
Local and national authorities are spending significant levels of funding on temporary accommodation and the cost for councils has tripled over the last three years, according to a report by the Local Government Association.
Labour has said it will build at least 100,000 council and housing association homes a year for genuinely affordable rent, or sale, and establish a new department for housing to improve standards and tackle homelessness.
The LGA findings came after the government introduced the Homelessness Reduction Bill in February this year, placing a new duty on councils to provide advice and support to people at risk of homelessness at earlier stages.
Councils would receive £61 million of funding for the nationwide service.