There is a 16% rise in the number of working households being made homeless. Image:Mihály Köles on Unsplash
The number of working people being made homeless or threatened with homelessness is surging in England, new government figures show.
More than 278,000 households faced homelessness in 2021/22 and a quarter – 68,010 – were in full-time or part-time employment, the government’s annual statutory homelessness survey found.
That’s up 16 per cent on the previous year. It is still 9 per cent below pre-Covid levels, however it only covers the 12 months up to April this year, before the current cost of living crisis took hold.
Alicia Walker, head of policy, research and campaigns at Centrepoint, said the figures show “the government urgently needs to get a grip on the cost of living crisis”.
The total number of households facing homelessness represents a 2.8 per cent rise on the previous year. This is in no small part due to a doubling (up 121.1 per cent) of Section 21 notices, which 19,790 private renters received following the end of the pandemic-era eviction ban in May last year.
The Boris Johnson government vowed to ban the notices – also known as “no-fault evictions” – under a proposed Renters Reform Bill but it remains to be seen whether Liz Truss will follow through.
There was also a 12.2 per cent increase in people over 35 facing homelessness, as well as a 16 per cent rise in Asian people requiring support and a 7.7 per cent increase where the occupant was Black.
Research has shown the cost of living crisis is “deepening racial inequality”. The New Economics Foundation found Black, Asian and other ethnic minority households are experiencing costs that are 50 per cent higher than white households as a portion of their income.
White people are seeing an average increase of £2,200 in their cost of living this year, while the increase for ethnic minority households is £2,900.
The government recently unveiled its rough sleeping strategy, promising to invest £500million over three years to provide 14,000 beds for rough sleepers and fund 3,000 staff to provide support.
“The recent rough sleeping strategy announcement is a positive step,” Walker said, “but this money can only go so far – especially if services become inundated with more people who have been forced into homelessness because they can’t keep their heads above water no matter what they do.”
The new statistics show 133,460 households were being threatened with homelessness in 2021/22, an increase of 11.3 per cent on the previous year. An additional 144,670 households were actually made homeless. This is down 4 per cent from 2020 to 2021, but it remains 2.9 per cent above pre-pandemic levels.
Walker said: “The more than doubling of Section 21 evictions should be the canary in the coalmine for government to take action now to protect renters and landlords from the cost of living crisis in the same way it did during the pandemic.
“The majority of these evictions will have taken place before surging bills and prices so, with costs continuing to rise, it seems inevitable that the number of these types of evictions will follow suit. The government has the institutional memory and means to prevent this happening but it must act now to avoid more people needing support because they are homeless.”
Matt Downie, chief executive of Crisis, said: “At a time when the cost of living crisis is hitting households, it’s deeply worrying that people are being forced from their homes, through no fault of their own, and plunged into instability, unable to afford somewhere to live.
“What is clear is that housing is unaffordable for too many, with rising homelessness among people in the private rented sector and more people facing homelessness because of rent arrears. This, coupled with a lack of social housing, forces people on low incomes into insecure and uncertain living situations, unable to move on with their lives.”
There was also a 59.1 per cent increase in the number of households made homeless due to domestic abuse.
The report said this reflects both an “increase in homelessness due to domestic abuse over the last year” as well as the “implementation of priority need” for victims through the Domestic Abuse Act, which was introduced in July last year.
Refuge and Women’s Aid have both issued statements warning that domestic abuse may soar in the cost of living crisis.
Farah Nazeer, chief executive of Women’s Aid, previously said in a statement: “We know domestic abuse and economic abuse go hand in hand with abusers often controlling every aspect of a woman’s life. The soaring energy and food costs, coupled with stagnant wages, will leave many women more vulnerable to abuse.”
Charities and campaigners are urgently calling on the government to take action to stop people being forced into homelessness as the cost of living crisis spirals.
Walker, of Centrepoint, added: “Sadly, the indications are that things are likely to get worse over the coming months because government’s interventions are either not reaching those facing homelessness or are failing to prevent it. This is particularly true for the most vulnerable young people who have been unable to access the household support fund and receive even less universal credit than older claimants.
“If we want young people not only to avoid homelessness but to achieve their ambitions, we need to see much more action from the government, starting with the chancellor’s emergency budget tomorrow.”
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter said: “Today’s numbers reflect what we’ve been seeing every day in our services. So many people were already desperately struggling even before the cost of living crisis set in. The fact that in just a year the number of people at risk of homelessness shot up and no-fault eviction notices more than doubled, is an ominous sign of things to come.
“People are losing their homes because they can’t afford to pay their rent, much less keep the lights on and put food on the table. Any support that’s available is nowhere near enough to cover the true cost of renting.
“The government needs to get a grip on the situation before it gets even worse. At an absolute minimum, it should use tomorrow’s emergency budget to unfreeze housing benefit, so people can pay their rent and keep their homes this winter.”
Fiona Colley, director of social change at Homeless Link, said: “Nearly 20,000 households had to seek homelessness assistance last year due to receiving an eviction notice through no fault of their own. The Government must bring through the full reforms outlined in the recent rental reform White Paper in the current parliament to help prevent a further surge in homelessness.”
Downie added: “Our message to the government is loud and clear, action must be taken now to prevent homelessness. This week’s budget must include plans to invest in housing benefit so it covers the true cost of renting.
“Going forward the Prime Minister must commit to introducing the Renters Reform Bill, to help give renters proper protection from being hit with a no-fault eviction and set out a clear plan to provide genuinely affordable homes. Only through such decisive action can thousands more people be protected from homelessness in the coming months.”
Campbell Robb, Nacro chief executive, said: “Today’s figures show that the amount of people leaving a public institution into homelessness has doubled to over 13,000 since 2017, with over half in the past year coming from custody alone.
“This shows the urgent need for the government to move on its £2 billion strategy to end rough sleeping by 2024, which included a commitment that nobody will leave hospital, psychiatric care, or custody homeless. After the temporary success in housing rough sleepers during the pandemic, and progress in providing temporary accommodation for prison leavers, we know this is an issue that can be tackled, if the political will is there. The government needs to act on its plans, now.”
Urgent action is needed to prevent even more people being pushed into homelessness. A secure home is the first step in addressing the cruel cycle of poverty to ensure people can fulfil their potential. Join us to keep people in their homes.