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Homelessness set to soar in England amid cost of living crisis | Roaming

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The number of homeless people in England is set to rise by a third by 2024, with councils warning of a ‘tidal wave’ of need caused by benefit freezes, soaring food and energy bills and the end of covid eviction bans.

More than 66,000 more people will be homeless by 2024, with most of the increase among those forced to ‘couch surf’, according to the annual forecast by housing charity Crisis and Heriot-Watt University. There will be 8,000 more people sleeping on the streets and 9,000 people forced into temporary accommodation in unsuitable accommodation.

Crisis chief executive Matt Downie described the results as ‘a huge cause for concern’, as a survey of 155 English councils also found nine out of 10 town halls expect to see an increase in evictions from private accommodation rented over the next year. Eight in 10 fear rising among homeless children.

“We are expecting a tidal wave, to say the least,” an official from a southern England council told researchers. “It’s going to be a very, very busy two years.”

Councils in London, where the cost of living is highest, forecast the biggest increase.

The grim projections come as government measures to prevent homelessness during the pandemic wear off. Basic homelessness in England – a concept that captures the most acute forms of homelessness – is estimated at 203,400 in 2020, down 5% from 2019 levels.

This was mainly due to the widely hailed ‘Everyone In’ initiative during the pandemic, which saw homeless people housed in hotels. But that measure is now expected to increase to 270,000 by 2024 and reach nearly 300,000 by 2036 unless further countermeasures are taken.

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Deportations have plummeted during the pandemic as ministers suspended legal proceedings, but they are rising again. There were over 14,000 possession claims between October and December last year, a 42% increase from the previous quarter.

Energy price increases expected in the spring of more than 40% will hit low-income single-adult households the hardest. They could be forced to spend 54% of their income on bills compared to 6% for a middle-income family, according to estimates by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

“It doesn’t have to be like that,” Downie said. “The protections put in place during the pandemic have helped thousands of people off the streets and kept many more from becoming homeless. It would be shameful if this progress collapsed in front of us, with an enormous human and financial cost for the municipalities, which had to pay the bill.

In December, the government announced a £316m homelessness prevention fund for advice for the next financial year which it said would protect tens of thousands of people from homelessness. It was well received by Crisis and Big Issue founder John Bird.

But Crisis is calling on the government to further increase the Local Housing Benefit – the amount the state will pay to cover the rent of people on benefits – so that it actually covers the cost of rent across the country. The abatement was rebased to 30% of market rents in spring 2020 but was frozen from April 2021.

He also reiterated his call for the construction of more social housing. Only 5,955 new homes for the cheapest social rents were provided in England 2020/21, compared to almost 40,000 a year a decade ago.

A spokesperson for the Department of Leveling, Housing and Communities said: “Government interventions have prevented almost 450,000 households from becoming homeless since 2017.

“This year councils have received an extra £65million to support low-income households with rent arrears.

“We are also banning no-fault evictions, and a £316m homelessness prevention grant will help people who are homeless or at risk of losing their homes to find new ones, get help with evictions or move into temporary accommodation.