MORE than half the families living in temporary accommodation are working, and yet they are officially homeless, a new study by the housing charity Shelter says.
The data compiled by the charity and released on Monday of last week, shows that more than 33,000 families, 55 per cent, in temporary housing “were holding down a job despite having nowhere stable to live”.
This represents a rise of 73 per cent from the last data in 2013, the report says. “This trend is due to a combination of high private rents, the ongoing freeze on housing benefit, and a chronic lack of social homes.”
Shelter’s CEO, Polly Neate, said: “It’s disgraceful that even when families are working every hour they can, they’re still forced to live through the grim reality of homelessness.”
The report says that local authorities are finding it “increasingly difficult to find suitable, settled homes for families”, which means that “families who now lose their home are more likely to find themselves living in temporary accommodation, and to be living there for a longer period”.
It continues: “Underpinning this trend is the chronic lack of affordable housing. There are currently 1.2 million households on council waiting lists for a new social home: there are four households in need for each home that becomes available each year.”
Ms Neate said: “In many cases [of working families who are homeless], these are parents who work all day or night before returning to a cramped hostel or B&B where their whole family is forced to share a room: a room with no space for normal family life like cooking, playing, or doing homework.
“We cannot allow struggling families to slip through the cracks created by our housing crisis; the Government must urgently come up with a new plan for social housing that delivers the genuinely affordable homes we desperately need. Our commission on the future of social housing will be calling for bold solutions, because more of the same is simply not good enough.”
The report also says that “by 2020, four-fifths (83 per cent) of England will be unaffordable to private tenants claiming housing benefit”, and that “the loss of a private tenancy was the single biggest cause of homelessness in the country in the last year”.
Shelter gave the case study of Mary Smith, who lives in temporary accommodation with her three sons in Watford. She became homeless after being evicted by their landlord, and cannot afford to rent privately, despite working full-time in a shoe shop.
She said: “We’ve lived in three different temporary places in two years, and it’s been really tough on the children. . . I’m not hopeful for our future. I think it’s going to be this constant, vicious circle of moving from temporary place to temporary place, when all my family want is to settle down. We don’t want a palace, we just want a place that we can call home.”
The Revd Mike Long, Superintendent Minister of the Notting Hill Methodist Circuit, chairs Shelter’s commission on social housing, and is leading the “Big Conversation”, which will lead to a report on the future of social housing.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “Everyone deserves a safe and decent place to live, and we are providing more than £1.2 billion so all those left homeless get the support they need.
“Councils have a duty to provide suitable temporary accommodation to those who need it, and families with children get priority. So [that] families can get a permanent home, we are investing £9 billion in affordable properties, including £2 billion for social rent housing.”
A report published by the think tank the Resolution Foundation, on Tuesday of last week, suggests that child poverty rose last year as incomes for the poorest third of families fell. The study, Living Standards Audit, reports that child poverty has been rising twice as fast as official figures show. The Foundation says that this was driven by benefit cuts.