By Chaminda Jayanetti
Councils are dumping homeless people in “temporary accommodation” for more than a decade, government research has revealed.
The survey of more than a hundred local authorities found that many councils are housing people in stopgap accommodation for years on end.
This is despite the fact that such accommodation is often unsuitable, especially for young children. Sentinel News revealed last month that one London council is dumping local mothers with young children in overcrowded single-room flats miles outside London.
The survey, carried out by independent researchers on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions, asked councils for the maximum period that claimants are being placed in temporary housing.
Across England, Scotland and Wales, 114 councils responded to the survey (page 16 here). Of these, three percent had placed a claimant in temporary housing for more than a decade. A further five percent had claimants in stopgap housing for between five and ten years.
In fact, a third of all councils said they had claimants who had been in temporary housing for more than a year. Less than 40 percent of councils did not have anyone in temporary housing for more than a year, while a further 29 percent didn’t know what the maximum local period in temporary housing was.
Councils usually place people in temporary housing because they have a legal duty to rehouse them. This legal duty is now defined narrowly, and excludes people who have lost their home because of rent arrears. It often includes people with particular housing needs, such as young dependent children or victims of domestic violence.
But many councils struggle to find suitable secure long-term housing for these people, especially in London where available housing is at a premium. In these cases, councils must secure temporary housing as a short-term measure whilst a longer term solution is found.
However, due to the housing crisis and council funding constraints, such short-term measures can go on for years. Those who have been in temporary housing for a decade or more are likely to be special cases, but the impact of the housing crisis means such cases are likely to become more common in the future.
Last month Sentinel News reported on the case of Alicia Phillips, a lone parent of two young children who had been placed in temporary housing by the West London council of Waltham Forest. Her family had been moved right out of London into Welwyn Garden City, in a cramped flat consisting of just one room.
As a result, it costs her hundreds of pounds every month to commute to her job in London. She told Sentinel last month: “I said at least put me at a hostel in London because I have to pay £400 a month to go work out of my wages. They said, ‘Oh, you’re just going to have to give up your job’. That’s what [the council officer] said to me.”
She has now been in temporary housing for two and a half years, with little sign of a long-term solution on the horizon. Her situation is increasingly typical of people who find themselves without a home – and those found to be “intentionally” homeless by the council don’t even have this backstop, as the council has no duty to rehouse them at all.
The survey also found that single parents and individuals under 35 years old are the most typical people housed in temporary accommodation, and that most councils are using up their Discretionary Housing Payment budgets, which provide emergency funding for people unable to afford housing costs, often due to benefit cuts.