Homelessness, that most visceral signifier of hard times, is on the rise and shaping up to be not merely another policy embarrassment for the coalition, but a fully fledged social crisis.
The number of people in England presenting to their local council as homeless rose by 23% in the first three months of this year, compared with the same period in 2010. The numbers of people sleeping rough on the streets has also started to climb.
That 23% figure does not tell the full story: some councils in London – Hackney, Bromley, Islington, Haringey — saw year on year rises in homeless applications of between 80% and 99%.
These statistics, troubling in themselves, are only the first wave. They refer to people, by and large, uprooted by the reverberations of the financial crash of 2008 and the resultant economic downturn.
They do not yet show the impact of public spending cuts which came in on 1 April or housing benefit changes, which will start to be felt from January 2012. When these filter through, the homelessness graph is likely rise dramatically.
This partly explains the terseness of the letter from the Department of Communities and Local Government (CLG) to the prime minister revealed in the Observer . Councils fear the housing benefit cash "savings" to Iain Duncan Smith's Department for Work and Pensions budget is merely "cost shunting" on a grand scale.
One of the most striking revelations in the letter is that the CLG estimates that any savings made in changes to housing benefits – projected to be £270m a year from 2014 – will be swallowed up entirely by the costs of homelessness and temporary accommodation.
Full story in The Guardian........
(Now link this story with this one).
According to data from The Chartered Institute of Housing the effect of the new housing benefit rules means 800,000 properties UK wide will become off limits to those on housing benefit: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/jan/01/available-rente... - particularly in certain areas.
In Haringey 6,900 homes will rise above the threshold for the current 14,350 claimants, although competition for outer London homes is expected to increase due to displacement from inner London.