New homelessness data welcomed

27 November 2009


Shelter has today welcomed new data that shows the measures local authorities are taking to prevent homelessness – after campaigning for the figures to be released.

The Communities and Local Government information shows a total of 130,000 households have been helped to find or keep their home this year, including almost 38,000 who were moved into private rented accommodation.

Shelter director of policy and campaigns Kay Boycott said: 'We are pleased these figures have been released, and they help give a clearer picture of homelessness in England. Our main concern is the increasing role the private rented sector plays in tackling our housing crisis, which can often be poor quality and unaffordable.

'If local authorities are increasingly using private renting to prevent homelessness then the Government must recognise the need for the sector to be professionalised. That means introducing a national register of landlords and taking steps to tackle affordability.'

The call comes after the charity launched a new report ‘Taking the Strain: The Private Rented Sector and the Recession’, that reveals 1.3 million low-income households in the sector are struggling or falling behind with their finances and many feel under mental and emotional strain.

The research also shows many landlords are finding it hard to cope, with more than 40 per cent either struggling sometimes or in constant financial difficulty. Some are even questioning their future in the sector which could leave many tenants vulnerable if landlords need to sell their properties suddenly.

Ms Boycott added: 'Our research paints the true picture of the private rented sector and the vulnerability that face both tenants and landlords. The dire shortage of affordable housing in Britain must be a priority for this or any other future government. But it must also be backed by a clear long term vision for the private rented sector to give people facing homelessness a decent affordable place to live.'

Today’s figures also show there are 1,763,140 households on council housing waiting lists this year – a decrease of 6,800.

Ms Boycott said: 'Despite a small fall in waiting list numbers this year, and measures being taken to tackle homelessness, there are still more than 1.7 million households on the lists, a rise of more than 700,000 since 1999.

'Simply put, these figures show how the Government is failing to tackle the huge shortage of affordable housing throughout Britain.'