The number of households living in temporary accommodation in England has hit a record high, while the risk of child homelessness has soared over the last year, according to new data released by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

At the end of March this year, almost 105,000 households were living in temporary accommodation – up 10% in the space of just a year and the highest figure since records began in 1998. The number of households with children in temporary accommodation also increased by 10% to just under 65,000. 

The worrying trend comes as consumer prices in Britain remain 7.9% higher than a year ago. What’s more, since inflation has largely been driven by the soaring cost of essential goods like food and fuel, it has hit poorer households which tend to spend a bigger portion of their income on essentials the hardest. 

Food and fuel inflation both dipped a little last month compared to May but food inflation in June was still 17.3% higher than a year before.

Inflated rent is another big part of the problem. With interest rates rising, many landlords are using their increasingly steep mortgage payments as justification for significantly upping tenants’ rent

Astonishing figures released last month by Statistica found that average London rents are approaching 80% of residents’ average monthly pay. So it’s unsurprising that these new government figures show homelessness is greatly elevated in the capital. At the end of March 2023, 16.5 per 1000 households were living in temporary accommodation in London, compared with 2.2 per 1000 in the rest of England. 

Inflation aside, a shortage of affordable housing in Britain is a longstanding issue.

Only yesterday, levelling up secretary Michael Gove proposed a new set of measures to increase housebuilding – proposals which include planning reform to make it easier to convert empty retail premises and betting shops into homes. He also insisted that the government will achieve its target of building a million new homes during this Parliament. 

While the National Housing Federation labelled Gove’s proposed planning reform “a positive start”, it called specifically for more investment in social housing. 

In December, a report from the cross-party Public Accounts Committee expressed concern that, despite the acute need for socially rented homes, the government has no formal target for how many of the 300,000 overall new homes built a year – a goal set out in the 2019 Conservative manifesto – should be affordable housing. 

With the social housing waiting list currently sitting at around 1.2 million households, it would be wise to redress this. 

Another measure which could relieve some pressure on England’s 11 million renters is the Renters Reform Bill, unveiled by Gove back in May. This Bill would ban landlords from hiking rents more than once a year or rejecting tenants simply for being on benefits or having children. It would also ban them from evicting tenants with no justification.

Homeless charity Shelter – which estimates that around 230,000 private renters have been served with no-fault evictions since 2019 – has urged the government to press ahead with the proposed legislation.  

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