Crisis an organisation for the homeless, carried out an assessment of the Homelessness Reduction Act (HRA), after being in force for two years. The assessment reveals that the HRA legislation is not working, due to the lack of homes and funding for councils.
Local authorities are struggling to find homeless people, a place to stay under the Homelessness Reduction Act. This is due to the dire shortage of affordable housing.
Nearly four in ten applicants, who contacted their local authority for assistance, under the Act, remain homeless or will become homeless. Crisis said Councils are: “forced to leave people on the streets”.
Homelessness Reduction Act not working
These are staggering figures 4 in 10 people, and homelessness is not decreasing, if anything, it seems to be getting worse.
The HRA was introduced to prevent people from becoming homeless. The HRA requires councils to find applicants a place to stay, within 56 days.
A report released 10th of March by Crisis found that councils’ were struggling due to housing supply and rising rents outstripping wages. The rents do not cover the benefits that tenants receive. The housing options available for people are decreasing.
According to Southwark council, the Homelessness Reduction Act was trumped to be the best piece of homelessness legislation for 40 years. However, homelessness went up in the borough last year. Across London, generally, the increase was marginally less than expected at 8.6% for families, placed in temporary accommodation. A similar increase, for the homeless that are on the streets.
In 2016 Southwark Council started trialling HRA and spent an extra £1.7m a year fulfilling its homelessness prevention work. The Governments contribution was £420k towards the HRA.
This year, the £73m provided to English councils, by the government over three years, to implement the Act, runs out.
The biggest reason for homelessness in Southwark is poverty
One of the contributing factors of homelessness is economic pressures. “The biggest reason for homelessness in Southwark is poverty, driven by welfare reform,” says Ian Swift, the council’s head of housing solutions. London rents in the private sector have risen in recent years. Since 2016, the local housing allowance had been frozen nationally. Recent changes in Universal credit will means a slight improvement for some claimants.
Evictions are increasing, due to rent arrears, which are partly caused by problems with the roll-out of universal credit. The crux of the problem is, the benefit payments received by tenants does not cover, the rents tenants are being charged by private landlords.
38% of people seeking assistance still homeless
Two years after the introduction of the HRA, 38% of applicants seeking assistance from their local authority are still homeless. In some cases, applicants are forced into homelessness, due to councils who do not have sufficient affordable housing.
A research was conducted by Crisis, which was based on 984 surveys and 89 in-depth interviews with people experiencing homelessness. The research revealed, 45 per cent of those struggling to access safe, and stable housing, were single males.
Third of those surveyed, homelessness was due to lack of employment, and mental health problems. The survey also revealed half of the tenants renting, in the private sector, said that mounting financial pressures, including tenancy insecurities, drove them into homelessness.
Councils currently have few options to offer, and in some cases, those seeking help, are handed a list of landlords to contact. This option, for many on the streets, is not accessible because their housing benefit will not cover the rent demand, in the private sector.
The London Mayor, not surprising then has called for more power to control rents for the capital.
Author: Marc Attwater
Date: 11th of March 2020