Councils are spending over five times as much money on temporary accommodation than they were a decade ago due to a severe social housing shortage, the Local Government Association (LGA) has warned.
Analysis by the LGA found that English councils spent £142 million placing homeless households in bed and breakfasts in 2019/20, a 430% increase on the £26.7 million they spent in 2010/11.
Provisional data suggests that this is linked to a rise in homeless households, with 10,510 households currently living in B&Bs compared to 2,310 a decade ago – over a 350% increase.
The LGA says the figures underline the “desperate need” to build more social housing, as it has called for councils to be given greater powers and resurces to build 100,000 social homes for rent each year.
Cllr David Renard, LGA housing spokesperson, said: “Sadly, these figures reflect the scale of the housing challenges that our country faces. Councils will only use bed and breakfasts as a last resort, but the severe lack of suitable housing means they now have no choice.
“This is hugely disruptive to families with children, and the rising demand for support has come with soaring costs for councils.”
The LGA has set out a six-point plan to help prevent and reduce homelessness. This includes bringing forward the pledge to end “no fault” evictions, maintaining the £20 per week increase in Universal Credit and making it easier for councils to acquire empty homes using compulsory purchase orders.
The national membership body for local authorities says that giving councils new powers would help the government meet a third of its annual housing target and reduce homelessness.
Councils could go even further in building new homes with the help of measures such as reforming Right to Buy to allow them to retain 100% of receipts, combine Right to Buy receipts with other government grants and set the size of discounts locally, it says.
Such measures have widespread parliamentary support, as polling by the LGA has found that 80% of MPs and 88% of peers believe councils should be given mroe financial freedoms and powers to build new homes.
“Throughout the pandemic government has trusted councils to get on with the job of protecting the nation, supporting people and putting infrastructures in place to help with recovery,” Cllr Renard added. “We want to continue this momentum and work with government to tackle the shortage of housing and build the homes the country desperately needs.
“With the right funding and freedoms, councils can help government achieve its ambitions for our national recovery from the pandemic. Giving councils the powers to build council housing on the scale required would go a significant way towards reducing homelessness and the need to place households in bed and breakfasts.”
A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson sought to downplay the figures, hinting that they have been affected by last year’s Everyone In scheme.
The spokesperson said: “As you would expect, the decisive action we have taken to protect vulnerable people and save lives during the pandemic has clearly contributed to these figures.
“Our Homelessness Reduction Act has already helped nearly 350,000 households into more permanent accommodation and we’re investing £750 million over the next year alone to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping and lessen the need for temporary accommodation.
“We’re investing more than £12 billion in affordable housing over five years, the largest investment in a decade, with half for affordable and social rent.”
Image: A B&B in Osmotherley, North Yorkshire. Credit: Pixabay.