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Housing crisis hits councils with £1bn bill

COUNCILS spent more than £1 billion on temporary accommodation for homeless households in just one year, government figures revealed today.

The spending, between April 2018 and March this year, was partly fuelled by a huge increase in households being placed bed-and-breakfast accommodation.

The overall cost of temporary housing has increased by a staggering 78 per cent over the last five years.

By comparison, the number of homeless households seeking help from councils rose by 45 per cent over the same time.

More than 30 per cent of the total — £344 million — was spent on emergency B&B accommodation, which has long been identified as inappropriate for families with children.

This is because it is expensive and requires guests to share bathrooms and kitchens. Often a family will have to sleep in one room. For this reason, there is a six-week legal limit on families staying in B&Bs.

Spending on B&Bs has more than doubled over the last five years. It increased by 111 per cent, while the number of households placed in such accommodation rose by 61 per cent during the same period.

Funding for temporary accommodation mainly comes from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to help those seeking assistance from their councils to secure long-term housing.

But the figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government show that there is a huge gap between DWP funding and what councils need to house people.

The amount councils spent from their own budget on such accommodation has increased by 123 per cent in the last five years, while central government grants for social housebuilding have been cut to fund Tory housing schemes such as shared ownership and Help to Buy.

Shelter chief executive Polly Neate blamed the government for not doing enough to build homes for social rent and funnelling money into private landlords’ pockets.

She said: “These figures are a shocking yet entirely preventable consequence of our housing emergency.

“If consecutive governments had built the genuinely affordable social homes that are needed, fewer people would be homeless and we would not be wasting vast sums on unsuitable temporary accommodation.   

“What’s even more shameful is that so much of this public money is lining the pockets of unscrupulous private landlords, who can charge desperate councils extortionate rates for grim B&Bs because there’s nowhere else for families to go.

“No family should have to live in a tiny room where there’s nowhere to even cook a meal or any safe space for their children to play.

“This is a crisis we cannot allow politicians to ignore during this election. Social housing must be at the heart of every manifesto and all parties must commit to at least 90,000 new social homes a year over the next parliament.

“If they don’t, all of us will pay an even higher price.”

Labour’s shadow housing secretary John Healey described the statistics as “shameful” and said they were the result of decisions made by Tory ministers.

He said: “Since 2010, the Conservatives have slashed funding for new low-cost homes and homelessness services and refused to give private renters the protections they deserve.

“Labour will end rough sleeping within five years and tackle the wider causes of homelessness, with investment in council and social homes and new rights to protect renters from eviction.”

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