Date 31 August 2017
Date updated 25 May 2018

This set of indicators cover Londoners sleeping rough and homeless families that local councils have a duty to house. Both kinds of homelessness reflect the lack of affordable housing in London. The problem is bigger than the numbers here: ‘hidden homelessness’ such as squatting, sofa-surfing, and ‘beds in sheds’ is by its nature difficult to estimate.

There were 8,100 people recorded as sleeping rough in 2016/2017, which is double the 2010/2011 figure. 75% of rough sleepers were in Inner London, with nearly a third of them in Westminster (32%). 

The number of homelessness acceptances dropped from the previous year, the first decline since 2009/10. These figures reflect statutory homelessness – those who the local authority has determined are legally entitled to assistance – and different local authorities interpretations of this measure varies significantly. More than 1 in 3 homeless households were placed by the local authority in temporary accommodation outside their home borough. This represents 19,700 households.

Homelessness: Indicators

Rough sleeping over time

8,100 people were seen sleeping rough at least once by a homeless outreach team in London in 2016/17, the same number as the previous year. The number of people sleeping rough in London has increased dramatically since 2007, and in 2015/16 was almost three times the number a decade ago in 2006. 

Over the period where rough sleeping has risen, the number of new rough sleepers has also risen, from 1,600 in 2007 to 5,100 in 2016/17. There is a high turnover, with 77% of rough sleepers seen sleeping out only once or twice. 

Only 15% of people recorded as sleeping rough in London in 2016/17 were women. However, many homeless women are ‘hidden homeless’ (for example they are sofa surfing or being sexually exploited in exchange for shelter) in order to avoid sleeping on the streets (where they also face a very high risk of sexual violence and exp…

Rough sleeping across London

75% of all rough sleepers were in Inner London in 2016/17, with 32% in Westminster and 43% in other Inner London boroughs. The number of rough sleepers in Westminster increased over this five-year period, but rose more quickly elsewhere meaning its share of total rough sleepers has fallen. 

The proportion of rough sleepers in Outer London has risen from 17% in 2011/12 to 25% in 2016/17, with 2% of total rough sleepers recorded in Heathrow airport. This offers some further evidence of disadvantage in London shifting out towards the outer boroughs. 

Homelessness acceptances over time

In 2016/17, the number of homelessness acceptances across London was 18,100. This marked a decline from the highest number of acceptances in a decade from the previous year (19,200). This is the first year acceptances have declined, rather than increased, since 2009/10. 

These figures reflect statutory homelessness (those who the local authority has determined are legally entitled to assistance). To be accepted as statutorily homeless by the local authority you must be found legally and unintentionally homeless, be eligible for assistance (based on citizenship and/or immigration status) and in priority need (the most common reasons to be found in priority need are having children in the household or meeting the criteria for ‘vulnerability’ through age or health issues). Given this strict definition, there are probably far more homeless ho…

Homelessness acceptances by borough

Although the levels of homelessness in London were more than double those in the rest of England, at 5 per 1,000 households compared with 2 per 1,000 in 2016/17, this varies considerably by London borough by year. Newham is the only borough with a rate over 10 per 1,000 households in 2016/17. Factors likely to be driving this phenomenon in Newham include the high proportion of families with children receiving housing benefit living in the private rental sector, and rapidly rising rents in the borough over the past five years (median rents rose 45% between the beginning of 2012 and 2016, the third highest increase in London). 

In 2015/16, Waltham Forest and Barking & Dagenham both also had rates above 10 per 1,000 households. Despite a large decline in the number of households they accepted as homeless over the past year in both boroug…

Homelessness prevention/relief over time

A total of 30,000 cases of homelessness prevention or relief were estimated to have taken place in London in 2016/17, in cases where local authorities did not have a statutory duty. This is unchanged from the previous year, but down from the peak of 34,000 in 2013/14. 

Homelessness prevention can either involve helping people facing homelessness to secure alternate accommodation, or helping someone to remain in their home (for example by brokering a repayment schedule between the tenant and the landlord to avoid eviction). Homelessness relief involves helping a household secure accommodation when the household does not meet the statutory definition of homelessness (see above). 

There were 3,400 cases of homelessness relief in 2016/17, where the local authority helped someone into secure accommodation despite not being under statutory duty.…

Homelessness prevention/relief - destinations

Of the 13,000 cases in London where homelessness was prevented or relieved and the household moved home in 2016/17, 5,900 moved to private rented accommodation, 45% of all cases. A similar amount moved to social rented accommodation, supported accommodation and hostels or houses in multiple occupation (HMO), with 1,900 moving to a social rent, 2,000 to a hostel or HMO and 2,300 to supported accommodation. 

The proportion of households that moved into private rented accommodation is down from five years previously, when it was 53% of all cases prevented or relieved where the household moved home. This has been driven by a fall in the absolute number of households moving to private rent, down from 8,500 households in 2011/12. The number of households moving into other types of accommodation has remained fairly unchanged over five years. 


Temporary accommodation over time

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 accom…

Temporary accommodation by borough

At the beginning of 2017, there were 19,700 households in temporary accommodation located outside their home borough, more than one in three of total households placed in temporary accommodation. This is 1,800 more households than were placed outside their borough at the same point in 2016 (a 10% increase in one year). 

The patterns across London are uneven, with eight boroughs placing more than 1,000 households in temporary accommodation outside of the borough. Newham had the highest number at 1,700. Newham also had the highest number of households in temporary accommodation overall as they also did in 2016). In addition to the local housing market factors discussed above, there has also been a ‘knockon’ effect of Inner London boroughs placing their homeless families in temporary accommodation in Newham, which the council said in 2015 ha…