New Survey Unmasks Deepening Homelessness Crisis in London

August 3, 2023

A recent survey conducted by the cross-party group, London Councils, reveals a disturbing increase in homelessness across the city. According to their study, approximately one in every 50 Londoners now lives in temporary accommodation, signaling a sharp escalation in the city’s homelessness crisis.

London Councils, examining borough-level homelessness data, estimates that the number of Londoners residing in temporary accommodations has risen to nearly 170,000, among which are 83,500 children. This unsettling statistic implies that there is, on average, at least one child from every London classroom living in temporary, often unsuitable, accommodations.

Contributing to the complexity of this issue is the shortage of affordable housing that has worsened amid the pandemic, skyrocketing living costs, and lack of sustainable income sources. This crisis is particularly visible in the dramatic 781% increase in homeless families placed in bed and breakfast accommodations beyond the legal six-week limit compared to the same period last year. An additional 1,141 London families found themselves lodged in such inadequate B&B accommodations in April 2023.

The situation is growing increasingly dire. As the pressures on local homelessness services intensify, London’s boroughs are finding it difficult to manage the crisis. They are now calling for immediate government intervention to assist low-income households in meeting their housing costs and to alleviate the mounting financial pressures on local services providing aid to the homeless.

Key findings from the survey further underscore the seriousness of the situation. The number of households entitled to homelessness support from a London borough, meaning those owed a homelessness prevention or relief duty, increased by 15.2% between April 2022 and April 2023. Owing to the lack of alternative housing options, boroughs are increasingly relying on the last-resort option of placing homeless families in B&B accommodation. The number of families housed in B&Bs doubled over the same period, marking an alarming increase of 110%.

The financial burden on boroughs due to rising homelessness is immense. According to London Councils, boroughs are collectively spending an estimated £60 million each month on temporary accommodation costs alone. Moreover, the net deficit across London boroughs’ homelessness services is projected to reach £244m in the 2023-24 fiscal year, marking an increase of 37% on the estimated deficit in 2022-23.

Further compounding the problem is the shrinking supply of private rental housing. Research conducted by property experts Savills and the London School of Economics, commissioned by London Councils and partners, showed a staggering 41% reduction in the number of London properties available for private rent since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Only 2.3% of London listings on Rightmove in 2022-23 were deemed affordable to low-income households using the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) to pay their rent.

Given these dire circumstances, London Councils is urgently appealing to the government to take comprehensive action. The council is calling for an increase in LHA, more capital investment for housing acquisitions, a boost in Homelessness Prevention Grant funding, an increase in Discretionary Housing Payments, and a cross-departmental strategy to reduce homelessness.

Reflecting on the current crisis, Cllr Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ Executive Member for Regeneration, Housing & Planning, stated, “This is the latest evidence of the homelessness disaster unfolding in the capital.” He emphasized the need for urgent action, saying, “Ministers need to treat this as the emergency it clearly is.” Only through swift and significant interventions can the tide be turned on London’s growing homelessness problem.