The number of households in temporary accommodation in London in the first quarter of 2017 was 54,000, compared with 23,000 across the rest of England. This marks a sixth consecutive increase at the same point in previous years, with 2,000 more households in temporary accommodation than a year previously, and a 48% increase on five years previously.
The number of households in temporary accommodation follows a similar pattern to the number of households accepted as homeless, with an increase in the mid-2000s to a peak of 63,000 in 2006, followed by falls to 2011 and subsequent rises. There was a slight lag between peak numbers of homeless acceptances and numbers in temporary accommodation. This is probably due to the length of time many households remain in temporary accommodation; at the beginning of 2017, 58% had been in temporary accommodation for longer than a year, 12% had remained for five years or longer.
Of the 54,000 households in temporary accommodation at the beginning of 2017, 45,000 (82%) contained children (or expected children).
3,000 were in B&B accommodation and 3,200 in a hostel or women’s refuge. This is considerably less than in the early 2000s, following legislation introduced to limit the use of B&B accommodation, with a six-week limit on the amount of time a family with children can spend in this type of accommodation. The use of B&Bs for temporary accommodation varies by borough. At the beginning of 2017, there were seven boroughs where at least 1 in 10 households in temporary accommodation were in B&B accommodation. At the same time, there were15 boroughs where less than one in a hundred households in temporary accommodation were staying in B&Bs.
In the final quarter of 2016, 710 households in London exceeded the six-week limit. However, the number of households in nightly paid, self-contained accommodation has increased dramatically over the past five years, and in 2016/17, 30% of households were in this type. This type of accommodation ‘typically involves the use of units and annexes associated with privately managed hotels generally paid on a nightly basis, but the household has exclusive use of all facilities’.* While this type of accommodation provides a private kitchen and bathroom for a family, it is not conventional accommodation.
Of the remaining households, 13% were in local authority or housing association stock and almost half (45%) were in private rented accommodation. Of these an increasing number are now in nightly paid accommodation. This could offer private landlords providing temporary accommodation ‘more frequent opportunities to exploit competition from boroughs bidding for properties and to negotiate higher rates’** as agreements can be changed from night to night. The six-week limit hampers boroughs’ negotiating power in these instances, although since 2014 boroughs have been working more closely together on this issue.
As with homeless acceptances, BME households are over-represented in temporary accommodation. 66% of households in temporary accommodation in London at the beginning of 2017 were BME.
* DCLG (2017) PE1 Guidance Notes: Quarter 1 2017 DCLG.
** Irvine, B. (2016) RSA Briefing: Designing solutions to London’s temporary accommodation system. London: RSA.