Eight new homeless families for every new social home shows human cost of housing policy failings

ONLY one new social home is being built for every eight families accepted as homeless by their local council, the National Housing Federation (NHF) has warned.

The organisation’s analysis of homelessness statistics offers a tragic illustration of how a failure to build enough new social housing has helped fuel not only a homelessness crisis – but the wider housing crisis.

Last year, 42,810 families were accepted as homeless in England, according to Government figures. That’s more than 117 families a day. More than two thirds were single-parent households.

But only 5,385 new social rent homes were built in the same period. That comes to just 14 a day.

Ten years ago, however, there were five more new homes for social rent built every day, than families accepted as homeless.

“The shocking disparity between the number of families made homeless every day and new social homes being built, puts into stark perspective how far away we are from meeting our housing need,” said Kate Henderson, the NHF’s chief executive.

“Homeless families are just the tip of the iceberg, there are thousands more in equally desperate need, living in severe poverty, overcrowding and unable to afford their rent. This is having a lasting and detrimental effect on hundreds of thousands of children affecting their mental and physical health.”

Councils have a legal duty to house children, but because of a lack of social housing, homeless families are often housed in temporary accommodation.

According to the NHF’s analysis, the number of children living in temporary accommodation has risen by 81% since its low point in June 2011, from 68,770 to 124,490 children. At the current rate of house building, the organisation says it is likely to reach the highest ever recorded by 2022.

The number of new social homes being built has plummeted since 2010 when the then coalition government slashed capital grants for the delivery of such properties, switching government support over the ensuing years to various schemes to support home ownership, as well as generally more expensive to rent versions of “affordable” housing.

The result has put a massive strain on available social housing, with increasing numbers of low income families left with no possible means of accessing a secure and affordable home. This has contributed to many more families ending up in temporary accommodation and staying there for longer.

In 2018 the government made its first commitment in 10 years to building homes for social rent, but at £2 billion this was only intended to build 25,000 homes over five years. The NHF says that England needs as many as 90,000 new social rent homes every year to house those most in need, including homeless families and those on waiting lists.

This is over 17 times the number currently being built.

Henderson added: “This should be a massive wake up call for the government to take urgent action to increase the number of social homes being built every year, and commit significantly more funding for social housing in the next Government Spending Review.”

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