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Rising homelessness sparks call for Government to work with private landlords

Thursday 14 September 2017

Rising homelessness has triggered a call for Government to work with landlords rather than using them for political gain.

The National Audit Office's latest report has revealed a 60 per cent increase in households in temporary accommodation since March 2011, to 77,240 households in March of this year.

It estimates the cost of homelessness to Local Authorities in 2015-2016 as £1.15 billion, after 88,410 households applied for assistance and warns of a threefold increase in homeless households after the end of an assured shorthold tenancy since 2010-11.

"This shows the results of financial and political attacks post Section 24 mortgage interest restrictions with PRS landlords looking to exit the housing market," said a spokesman for landlord union Property 118.

"Surely the government needs the PRS now more than ever?"

One landlord commented: "The causes are related to issues like Section 24 driving rents up and landlords out of the sector, which limits supply.

"This impacts most on those at the bottom financially, as landlords can no longer afford to offer cheap rents as we used to - we now have to chase the last pound to pay the lunatic tax."

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, attacked the government on its record saying: “Homelessness in all its forms has significantly increased in recent years, driven by several factors.

"Despite this, government has not evaluated the impact of its reforms on this issue, and there remain gaps in its approach.

"It is difficult to understand why the Department persisted with its light touch approach in the face of such a visibly growing problem.

"Its recent performance in reducing homelessness therefore cannot be considered value for money."

The report said that "the ending of private sector tenancies has overtaken all other causes to become the biggest single driver of statutory homelessness in England."

The proportion of households accepted as homeless by local authorities due to the end of an assured shorthold tenancy increased from 11 per cent during 2009-10 to 32 per cent during 2016-17.

The proportion in London increased during the same period from 10 per cent to 39 per cent.

Across England, the ending of private sector tenancies accounts for 74 per cent of the growth in households who qualify for temporary accommodation since 2009-10.

"In addition, it appears likely that the decrease in affordability of properties in the private rented sector, of which welfare reforms such as the capping of Local Housing Allowance are an element, have driven this increase in homelessness,” the report said.

“The ability of local authorities to respond to increased homelessness is constrained by the limited options they have to house homeless families. There has been a significant reduction in social housing over the past few decades.”

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