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Homeless - Man rough sleeping outside prestigious London department store

LGiU calls for strategy to tackle homelessness

A comprehensive national strategy backed by proper funding and infrastructure is required to tackle the growing crisis of homelessness, according to a report from the Local Government Information Unit.

Sustainable and affordable housing, mental health support, addiction services, and other infrastructure are urgently needed to address the causes of homelessness, the report says. This comes at a similar time to figures from the Greater London Authority showing rough-sleeper figures hitting a record high in London, with an 18% year-on-year rise in 2018-19.

Pulling these resources together by working with organisations from across the public sector under a sustainable housing and homeless strategy and giving councils the powers and resources they need to carry out their duties is what will help tackle the crisis, described as the result of national policy failure.

The report was published after a year-long investigation by the LGiU’s Local Government Homelessness Commission (LGHC), set up in 2018 to explore how councils can prevent homelessness and what support is required from government.

The commission heard from evidence councils as well as charities such as Centrepoint. Commissioners found that the homelessness problem is much wider than rough sleeping and has called for the narrative to change so it encompasses all forms of homelessness. For example, the report highlights, for every two people sleeping rough on the streets there are 98 in shelters, temporary accommodation, bed and breakfasts, or moving between “precarious forms of accommodation”.

The LGHC’s investigation also concluded that current funding is spent unproductively and inefficiently. A dysfunctional housing market, an inadequate and badly administered welfare regime, and rising levels of poverty all exacerbate homelessness, it was found.

The report added that without significant strategic funding, the systems in place under the Homelessness Reduction Act (2017), may result in an improved assessment process but will not achieve its ultimate objectives.

As well as a coherent, properly funded housing and homelessness strategy the LGHC has recommended that local government should have the power to vary Local Housing Allowance rates to better reflect local housing market conditions and increase efficient use of public money. And government should introduce minimum three year tenancies for the private rented sector.

Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of LGiU, said: “Local authorities are tackling an ever growing homelessness crisis in our communities on a shoestring, with less and less money to do so. The government can no longer expect local government to pick up the pieces.

“Our report calls for greater devolution of powers to build houses, to combine budgets and control and vary the welfare regime so that it better reflects local housing markets.”

Read: Public Finance – LGiU calls for national joint-working strategy to tackle homelessness.