A place to call home
Everyone needs somewhere to live that provides stability and security - it's essential for people to be able to put down roots and build a life for themselves and their family. But the UK is facing a housing crisis. In this series of briefings we focus on helping people with their housing costs, and tackling homelessness in our communities.
Housing costs have spiralled while support for housing costs has been eroded. Seismic changes in the UK’s housing market have seen people pushed out of more secure housing tenures and into expensive and insecure private renting. There remains a gulf between the number of affordable homes available and the scale of need.
Housing costs are eating into disposable income and contributing to poverty and destitution deepening (Taylor and Schmuecker, 2023). In communities across the UK there are people experiencing homelessness.
The drivers of homelessness include individual experiences, such as relationship breakdown, domestic violence, trauma, mental health problems and problem substance use. But they are underpinned by structural problems of poverty, inadequate housing supply, unaffordable rents and unemployment (Aldridge and Enevoldsen, 2022). Key transitions, such as leaving asylum accommodation, moving on from care or leaving prison, are also key moments of risk when people are vulnerable to homelessness.
Two briefings can be downloaded below setting out recommendations for better supporting people with their housing costs and tackling homelessness. This must be underpinned by changes to our housing market (covered in our Strengthening the foundations for security briefing).
Ending homelessness is key to tackling deep poverty
Housing insecurity, homelessness and deep poverty are deeply entwined. Crisis and hardship can push people into homelessness, while not having a safe and stable place to call home makes it harder to escape deep poverty and destitution.
It is possible for us to end homelessness. Actions taken during the Covid-19 pandemic – such as the moratorium on evictions and introduction of Everyone In – show that bold action on homelessness is possible. This is the kind of ambition matched by action that government needs to commit to permanently. As Crisis has set out (Downie et al, 2018), it is possible to work towards a country where no one is sleeping rough or forced to live in transient or dangerous accommodation; where no one lives in temporary accommodation for the long term, without a plan for quickly being settled; and where no one is made homeless due to leaving a state institution.
But in England the number of people in temporary accommodation is at a record high and the number of people sleeping rough has leapt back up having fallen dramatically during the pandemic. There is a rising tide of housing insecurity and homelessness.
Preventing homelessness and putting down roots
The first step in ending homelessness must involve trying to prevent it from happening in the first place. Building more affordable homes, shifting the existing balance of tenure towards more secure and affordable housing, greater protection for renters from eviction and more support with housing costs are all key here. But so too is the offer of support when people are at risk of homelessness and facing key transitions which can put them at higher risk of homelessness.
If and when people do fall through the net and find themselves without a place to call home, there needs to be support available to everyone in our communities. This means high-quality temporary accommodation which is genuinely temporary and accommodation with support options where people have higher support needs.
In these briefings we build on JRF's existing work in this space and bring together evidence and recommendations from across the housing and homelessness sector, highlighting key issues for policy-makers to pay attention to and practical recommendations which can help to end homelessness:
- Changing our housing market by introducing essential protections for renters against eviction, improving the supply of social housing, and shifting the tenure mix of the UK’s housing market to bring greater economic security to people.
- Reforming social security so it better supports people with housing costs including through Local Housing Allowance, and reforms to the benefit cap and social sector size criteria (commonly known as the ‘bedroom tax’).
- Preventing and addressing homelessness in our communities through effective services and high-quality accommodation.
Aldridge, S and Enevoldsen, C (2022) What Works: Research Impact and Homelessness, European Journal of Homelessness Winter 2022, Homelessness and Street Homelessness in England: Trends, Causes and What Works. Available at: https://assets-global.website-files.com/59f07e67422cdf0001904c14/624ee85ec11dc94b29baa266_CHI.EJOH.Homelessness%20and%20street%20homelessness%20in%20England.pdf [Accessed: 17 October 2023].
Downie, M, et al. (2018) Everybody In: How to End Homelessness in Great Britain. Available at: https://www.crisis.org.uk/ending-homelessness/homelessness-knowledge-hub/international-plans-to-end-homelessness/everybody-in-how-to-end-homelessness-in-great-britain-2018/ (crisis.org.uk) [Accessed: 11 October 2023].
Taylor, I and Schmuecker, K (2023) What protects people from very deep poverty, and what makes it more likely? Available at: https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/what-protects-people-very-deep-poverty-and-what-makes-it-more-likely (jrf.org.uk) [Accessed: 17 October 2023].