This is how much it costs EVERY DAY to temporarily house families. It’s time to invest properly in council homes
by Felicity Collier
COUNCILS are spending a whopping £2 million a day on temporary accommodation for homeless families because of an ongoing shortage of truly affordable housing, the Local Government Association (LGA) announced yesterday.
Nearly 75,000 households are currently living in bed and breakfasts, hostels and in short-term private rents — a 50 per cent increase since 2010, the LGA said.
Councils have had to spend £2.6 billion on housing people in temporary accommodation over the past three years, the LGA estimated.
The association is calling for a “renaissance in house-building by councils,” as the number of flats and houses available has plunged to a 24-year low because of the Tories’ disastrous right-to-buy policy and the extension of it to housing association tenants.
The amount of social housing being built — already at rock-bottom — plummeted by 52 per cent between 2015 and 2016.
The current spending on temporary accommodation is “unsustainable,” warned the association, which represents councils in England and Wales.
The LGA is calling on the government to remove borrowing limits for house-building for councils to enable them to build genuinely affordable places to live. It called for a halt on the freeze on local housing allowance (LHA) — the amount paid to benefit claimants who rent from private landlords — so that vulnerable families can be housed more easily.
During a debate on the Homelessness Reduction Bill in the Lords last month, cross-bench peer Lord Richard Best said that there was a direct link between the LHA freeze and the rise in homelessness.
LGA chairman Gary Porter said: “With councils continuing to face huge financial pressures, it is unsustainable for them to have to spend £2m a day to house vulnerable people at the sharp end of our housing crisis.
“Councils would much rather invest this scarce resource in building new affordable homes and preventing homelessness happening in the first place.”
Campaign group Axe the Housing Act is calling for the Housing and Planning Act — which would see more council housing sell-offs to pay for the right-to-buy extension — to be repealed, and for more homes to be built. Activist Dorian Courtesi told the Star the danger is that social rents are being replaced by “affordable rents.”
He said: “Councils are looking to the government’s privatised model for housing. The system defines ‘affordable’ as being 80 per cent of market rents, but this is out of reach to key workers such as teachers and nurses.”
Mr Courtesi fears the temporary accommodation figures have been “massaged,” disguising the true extent of the crisis — in Camden, London, alone there is a housing waiting list of 26,000 people.
Last week, Shelter said that the number of households renting privately has grown by one million since 2010. It wants five-year rental tenancies to end “uncertain and unpredictable” living.
Defend Housing Campaign spokeswoman Eileen Short said: “We need to free councils of inflated ‘historic’ debt burden, reclaim public land and invest in homes at council rents with secure tenancies, and an accountable elected landlord.
“Council housing was invented to deal with dire lodging house slums and profiteering rents. We need to stop demolishing estates and invest in council homes again.”