This Christmas, 126,000 children in England will be living in temporary accommodation, having been made homeless with their families. The failure by successive governments to build enough social housing has made it impossible for low income families to put a secure, affordable roof over their head.
No one deserves to live in inadequate housing for years on end, and the children sharing bedrooms with parents with nowhere to play or do homework will be scarred for life. Fixing this will be a moral duty for the next government. The biggest task will be to build suitable homes where they are needed. But it is also essential to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place.
According to data from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government released in September, local councils helped 263,720 households who were facing homelessness last year. Of these, 28,320 were being evicted because their landlord was selling up, re-letting the property, or responding to a complaint by the tenant about disrepair.
That means more than 10% of homelessness is created by landlords making purely personal decisions – or who simply don’t want to meet their legal obligations to provide a home fit to live in – and leaving their tenants and councils to deal with the fallout. Homelessness support cost councils £1.1bn last year.
Landlords can uproot tenants without needing a reason using Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. While landlord groups often claim that such evictions are normally prompted by tenants being in arrears, this latest data shows that roughly twice as many tenants faced homelessness essentially from landlords seeking greater profits.
We can see this play out at the local level. Tenants were most at risk of being made homeless in the outer fringes of London – boroughs such as Havering, where 39 private renters in every 1000 faced homelessness as a result of their landlord selling or re-letting – and commuter towns such as Corby, Milton Keynes and Crawley.