Benefit changes have resulted in an 86% increase in homeless acceptances in Westminster between 2010/11 and 2012/13 and further rises are expected when the household benefit cap takes effect for non-working households, according to a report to Westminster City Council’s Cabinet on Monday 24th June. Meanwhile, the cost of Temporary Accommodation for the homeless is predicted to be £6 million above budget this year.
In an attempt to stem the growing tide of homelessness, Council officers have told the Council that more Temporary Accommodation is required and “an estimated 600 new self-contained units are needed during 2013/14 and portfolio of at least 2,000 will be needed until 2020”. Most of the new homes to be purchased or leased by the Council will be outside Westminster and will “be a maximum of 1.25 hours travelling distance from central London”
The report says;
“As a result of the 86% increase in homeless acceptances over the last two years, coupled with loss of Temporary Accommodation supply and the increased difficulties in procuring self-contained accommodation within LHA caps, the City Council has found itself with increasing number of families in Bed and Breakfast accommodation and particularly families over 6 weeks, which is in breach of its statutory duties in relation to homelessness”
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Leader of the Labour Group, said;
“These figures show the increasing financial cost of the Government’s disastrous housing policies. We already know the human cost of moving families into unsatisfactory Bed and Breakfast accommodation or shipping them 50 miles out of London, but now the true financial cost is becoming very clear with Westminster being forced to buy 600 homes throughout the South East and beyond this year just to deal with homelessness applications.”
A copy the report is attached here 10 – Cabinet Rpt Re Procurement of Temporary Accommodation 24 June 2013-1 and here11 – Appendix B WCC Temporary Accommodation Procurement Strategy
Prior to 2011 homelessness acceptances in Westminster were falling. Acceptances rose by 86% between 2010/11 and 2012/13 (see Table 1).
Table 1: Homeless approaches and acceptances over time
2009/10 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13
Homelessness Applications 1125 1170 1445 1,742
Homelessness Acceptances 378 430 539 815
In 2009 only 9% of acceptances came from households living in the private rented sector but during 2012/13 this rose to 65%. Other reasons why the impact has been so acute in Westminster are:
• The size of the private rented sector means greater numbers have been affected. The sector makes up 45,000 properties and 43% of the total stock, is the largest in London and has been on an upward trajectory with 18,000 more properties since in 2001
• Local connection rules under homeless legislation mean boroughs must accept a duty towards eligible homeless households that have resided locally for six out of the past twelve months. Shorter residency is more likely in areas with large private rented sectors, due to the short term nature of tenancies and high churn. Around 25% of Westminster’s homeless acceptances are to households that have six out twelve months local connection. Churn in the private rented sector is particularly high, a survey in 2010 found that almost a third of private tenants had been in their current property for less than a year and 63% intended to move within the next two years.