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Lack of affordable housing forcing councils to leave people homeless

Nearly four in 10 (38%) people who approached their local authority for help since the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 was introduced either remained homeless or became homeless because councils do not have enough genuinely affordable housing available.

A report from homeless charity Crisis, which is based on 984 surveys and 89 in-depth interviews, called for more affordable housing to help people in need.

The Homeless Reduction Act (HRA) was designed to stop people from becoming homeless in the first place.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “It’s deeply distressing that, across England, councils are being forced to leave the people they are trying to help on the streets or drifting from sofa to sofa – all because they cannot find somewhere safe and affordable for them to live.

“The HRA has made some good progress in preventing people from becoming homeless, but it’s worrying to see that it’s being constrained by a chronic lack of housing and cuts to housing benefit.

“The HRA can be at the heart of ending homelessness for good, as this report shows, but this is only possible if councils are properly resourced and have the tools, they need to help people leave homelessness behind for good.

“It’s vital that the government gets to grips with the root causes pushing people into homelessness in the first place, this means ensuring more social homes are built across the country and that housing benefit is restored to truly cover the cost of rent.

“Only when these measures are in place will we be able to unleash the full potential of the HRA.”

People sleeping on the streets or on friends or family’s sofas are most likely to remain trapped in this situation after seeking help.

Of these, 45% are single men still struggling to access safe and stable housing.

Some people revealed that the only support councils were able to offer them was information on how to rent privately.

This typically consists of a list of potential landlords for them to contact, though many found they were unable to access these properties because their housing benefit would not cover the rent.

Crisis said more must be done to ensure the HRA can reach its full potential of preventing and ending homelessness across England.

The charity has called on the government to urgently invest in housing benefit so that it covers the cheapest third of rents and commit to building 90,000 social homes each year for the next 15 years.

Despite the many issues raised, the overwhelming majority (75%) of interviewees stated that they felt their local housing teams had treated them with respect and handled their situation sensitively.

The key drivers for over a third of people sleeping rough was loss of employment and mental health problems, while over half of people renting privately said that mounting financial pressures and insecurities with their tenancy had pushed them into homelessness.