The Bureau Local; a network of people around the UK reporting on issues that affect people’s day-to-day lives launched an investigation into the barriers that stop people from being able to get into housing.
The investigation revealed that landmark homelessness legislation is failing, leaving people across the country trapped in homelessness no matter what they do. Upon analysing 62,000 rental listings across the country on a single day and speaking to homeless people, housing advocates and council officers, it was found that:
- 94% of two-bedroom homes available for rent across England, Scotland and Wales are too expensive for families on housing benefit;
- Most landlords of those which are affordable either refuse to rent to anyone on benefits or impose conditions which many people on benefits would find it impossible to meet;
- More than 5,000 families a week are approaching councils in England for homelessness support;
- English councils are overwhelmed and severely underfunded, unable to fulfil the duties set by the government’s landmark Homelessness Reduction Act, instead pushing people to the unaffordable private rental sector;
- The most vulnerable people are paying the heaviest price, with families fleeing domestic abuse and disabled people forced to live in crowded unsuitable accommodation for months on end;
- “Personalised Housing Plans” given out by councils to prevent people from falling into homelessness often consist of little more than links to property rental websites.
Across the country, people are regularly having to rent more expensive homes and top up their housing benefit with other funds to cover the shortfall. The analysis found that the average British councils would need to raise their benefit allowance by £100 each month to make the cheapest 30% of the two-bed properties that were sampled affordable. But in some areas that was much higher – in Central London, claimants would need an extra £1,422 a month.