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‘No substitute’ for council houses, as rough sleeping to rise 76%

A new report from Crisis has revealed severe levels of core homelessness across Great Britain and warned of the impact of doing nothing.

Its report – launched in the homeless charity’s 50th anniversary year – says that just under a quarter of a million people in Britain are experiencing the worst forms of homelessness. The research – undertaken by Heriot-Watt University – anticipates that rough sleeping will rise by 76% in the next decade unless action is taken.

The research provides the most complete picture to-date and shows that almost all forms of ‘core’ homelessness have increased over the past five years. This includes rough sleeping, sofa surfing, squatting, living in hostels or other forms of temporary accommodation. The report fills a gap in evidence, with many forms of homelessness falling outside of official figures.

The report includes a series of ‘what if’ scenarios, modeling the impact of different policies. Ending planned welfare cuts would keep poverty levels static and would lead to a substantial reduction in core homelessness over time.

An increase in new and affordable housing supply of more than 60% would ease homelessness, while a ‘maximal prevention’ scenario would have the biggest impact. In this scenario all local authorities would match the practices currently implemented by those with extensive homelessness prevention activity. The final scenario is ‘regional convergence’ which would take wide-ranging measures to rebalance the economy and reduce poverty is anticipated to reduce homelessness by 25% by 2036.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis said: ‘Regardless of what happens in people’s lives, whatever difficulties they face or choices they make, no one should ever have to face homelessness. With the right support at the right time, it doesn’t need to be inevitable. There are solutions, and we’re determined to find them and make them a reality.

‘We warmly welcome the government’s pledge to tackle rough sleeping and other forms of homelessness. Now’s the time for action and long term planning to end homelessness for good.’

In response to the findings the charity has launched a new campaign called Everybody In, with the aim of creating a national movement to create permanent change.

The report comes in the wake of LGA figures which last month showed councils are housing the equivalent of a secondary school’s worth of homeless children every month.

Judith Blake, leader of Leeds Council and the LGA’s spokesperson on housing said: ‘Homelessness is everyone’s business, and councils need the help of health, employment, and housing partners to deliver ambitions to end it. In particular, councils need to be able to adapt the implementation of some welfare reforms to ensure there are housing options for people on low incomes.

‘There is no substitute for a renaissance in council house building if we’re to truly address the rising homelessness we face as a nation. For that to happen, government needs to allow councils to borrow to invest in genuinely affordable housing, and to keep all of their receipts from Right to Buy sales, so that money can be reinvested into delivering genuinely affordable homes.’

Faye Greaves, policy and practice officer at the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), said: ‘Today’s report is a stark warning of the potential outcome if we don’t start taking action now. History tells us that we can reduce or even eliminate homelessness but it does require a co-ordinated approach – that means government investment, funding for affordable housing and a concerted effort across the housing and homelessness sectors.’

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