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£600 million to be spent on temporary accommodation by councils – this can’t be right?

It is not disputed that there has been a rise in homeless persons and families in recent years. A recent Freedom of Information Act request has showed that in the last 18 months several London Boroughs (apart from Enfield and Bromley who were unable to provide figures at the time of the request) are spending nearly £600 million on temporary accommodation alone.

It was also noted that Newham, Ealing, Haringey, Westminster and Hackney Councils have spent nearly half of this figure. They have spent a staggering £270 million collectively. Does this mean that these areas have the most homelessness cases? With the increased number of families and individuals being evicted, it is not surprising. For example, the statistics in 2015 showed that 170 tenants were being evicted every day in the UK. Out of the top 20 boroughs evicting tenants, 16 of these were based in London with Newham being the highest with an eviction rate equal to 191 evictions for each 100,000 households. With a lack of wage increase and living costs continuing to rise, as well as benefit caps it is not hard to see why people are struggling to maintain a roof over their heads. The strange thing is that councils, such as Newham, are also evicting their council tenants. Once they do this, the same tenants approach the council for shelter. The council then spend more money to accommodate them in emergency accommodation pending their investigations. What’s the point?

The Government announced a budget of £115 million this year for homelessness in the UK. Considering what they are spending now and the fact that eviction rates are increasing, this figure is completely unrealistic.

For example, it is estimated that Birmingham City Council spends £11,096,508 a month on temporary accommodation. Manchester City Council is currently spending £5,345,717 and Bristol City Council nearly £4.5 million. In Northern Ireland it is estimated that just over £4 million is spent on temporary accommodation per month. This is on top of the monies spent by London boroughs.

It is estimated that an average of £31,051,713 is spent per month on temporary accommodation by each borough that participated in this request. This equates to £1,001,668 per council (at least for the councils that participated) each month with one quarter of this being funded by the taxpayer. This is only an estimate and we have not seen figures for all boroughs so we cannot actually be sure how much councils are spending a year for temporary accommodations. It seems that the council’s expenditure is also increasing, not decreasing.

How can we change this? Would it help if the rate of evictions reduced? This would mean less homeless people and then less monies will be spent on temporary accommodation. Or will it make no difference if the house prices, in London and outside London, keep rising? It is clear that a change is needed, we need to find a way to control these spiralling figures, but how? Is the government being realistic in their approach? With a budget of £115 million it seems that the government are not fully aware or really dealing with this issue. One thing is for sure – temporary accommodation will cost significantly more than £115k a year.