A rise in homelessness is being driven by the cost and availability of housing, a cross-party group of politicians said today.
They include estate agent Kevin Hollinrake, chairman of Hunters and MP for Thirsk and Malton.
In an unusually hard-hitting report, the MPs are calling for a renewed government-wide strategy, and criticise the way many homeless people are dealt with as unacceptable.
The Communities and Local Government Select Committee says that its inquiry showed many homeless people are treated shamefully by council staff.
Those judged not to be in priority need are often sent away without any meaningful support or guidance.
The committee is sponsoring a new Private Member’s Bill, the Homelessness Reduction Bill, to be presented next month by one of its members, Bob Blackman.
It is almost unheard of for a select committee to sponsor a Bill on the back of an inquiry, as the CLG Committee is doing.
The committee calls on the Government to monitor councils, and reinforce the statutory Code of Practice to ensure the levels of service that local authorities must provide are clear.
Another recommendation is that the Government should consider setting a statutory duty for local authorities to provide meaningful support to single homeless people with a local connection, after the inquiry found that many receive little more than a list of local letting agents.
The report says a shortage of social housing means many people rely on the private rented sector to avoid or escape homelessness, but often the financial barriers or instability of tenancies are too great.
It urges the Government to work with local authorities to deliver homes for affordable rent and says local housing benefit levels should be reviewed to more closely reflect market rents.
Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Communities and Local Government Select Committee, said: “No one should be homeless in Britain today, but the reality is that more and more people find themselves on the streets, in night shelters or going from sofa to sofa to keep a roof over their heads.
“They are often driven there by the availability and cost of housing and have been failed by front line support services along the way.
“The scale of homelessness is now such that a renewed Government strategy is a must. It needs to not only help those who are homeless but also prevent those vulnerable families and individuals who are at risk of becoming homeless from joining them.
“All departments will need to subscribe to this common approach and contribute to ending homelessness.
“Local authorities also have a big part to play. The committee recognises that they face a significant task with funding pressures and legal obligations, but vulnerable people are too often badly treated, being made to feel like they are at fault, and offered ineffectual and meaningless advice.
“We want the Government to monitor local authorities and help them achieve best practice.
“The Committee has made a number of recommendations and we plan to follow up many of these issues in a year’s time to see what progress is being made.”
The prevalence of mental health issues among homeless people, in particular rough sleepers, is also highlighted in today’s report with ministers urged to produce a detailed action plan.
Other recommendations include:
- Housing benefit recipients should have the option of their benefit being paid directly to the landlord to reduce likelihood of arrears and increase landlord confidence.
- Landlords should be encouraged to offer longer Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreements.
Umbrella charity body Homeless Link welcomed the report and urged the Government to act without delay.
Chief executive Rick Henderson said: “The report must not be allowed to gather dust; the clock is ticking for many people at risk of or currently experiencing homelessness.”
The biggest single cause of homelessness is the ending of an assured shorthold tenancy in the private rented sector, according to official figures.