How and where people live 

Homelessness 

People experiencing homelessness are often affected by poor health and wellbeing issues. Homelessness can be a complex situation and like health and well-being issues, it can be caused or contributed to by underlying conditions such as mental health or drug and alcohol problems. Homelessness is also a difficult and stressful situation often caused by a range of issues that can already be impacting upon health and well-being in detrimental ways: living with friends; living in overcrowded accommodation; family and relationship breakdowns; job losses and financial problems. Finally, many people experiencing homelesseness are not connected to the health services that they need.

 

People who are homeless are without a regular place to live. People may be legally homeless because  [1]:

 

They have no legal right to live in accommodation anywhere in the world.

They are unable to get into their home, for example because they have been locked out by their landlord.

It would not be reasonable for them to stay in their home, for example, because of violence or risk of violence.

They are forced to live somewhere apart from their family because the accommodation is not suitable.

They are living in very poor conditions, for example in accommodation that is damaging to their health.
 

The Council must arrange accommodation for people who have become homeless through no fault of their own, are in ‘priority need’ and ‘eligible for assistance’. Homeless households seeking accommodation are often provided with temporary accommodation. Housing legislation requires the council to provide suitable accommodation for homeless households.  In the first instance on an interim basis, pending enquiries and subsequently, on a temporary basis until a long term housing solution has been provided.  Temporary accommodation can take a broad range of housing types although the general feeling of uncertainty and insecurity which goes with it can have a deleterious impact upon health and well-being. Wider impacts can also arise for households living in temporary accommodation including children who miss school (Shelter, Impact of TA on Homeless Families, 2004).

Once the Council has accepted a duty to a homeless household they remain in temporary accommodation until such time as a long term housing solution is found.

The Localism Act 2012 empowers the Council to discharge its homeless duties to a household accepted as homeless by providing accommodation by securing a one year assured short-hold tenancy via a private landlord.

 

In the course of the last 2 years the Council has experienced a significant increase in housing pressures which has manifested itself in a rise in temporary accommodation placements and within that, an unwelcome major increase in bed and breakfast usage, which peaked in August 2012 at 226 households 116 of which had at that time been in such accommodation in excess of 6 weeks, placing the Council in breach of legislation.

 

Aside from homeless duties, the Council has seen a general rise in demand for housing with the waiting list growing by 50% in the last 5 years to 15,200. This is against a backdrop of a reduced supply of Council accommodation and the impact of the Councils regeneration programme which will deliver new affordable housing in the medium term but has a short term impact of reducing supply, leaving less available for those in temporary accommodation to move on to.

 

The situation is exacerbated by the economic downturn, structural changes to the housing market, and the impact of the early phases of Welfare Reform. There has been a large increase in demand in the borough for private rented accommodation. This has principally come from working households on modest incomes unable to access homeownership and unlikely to succeed in gaining a social rented home. Clearly the difficulties faced by Barking and Dagenham are being experienced across London and are in some cases far greater. There is evidence of other London Boroughs placing families for whom they have a homelessness duty, with over 450 placements recorded during 2011 on the inter borough temporary accommodation log.

 

It is also extremely difficult to quantify the level of impact that welfare reform will have upon income collection in temporary accommodation and increased levels of homelessness. London Boroughs with higher rent levels are therefore more likely to be greatly affected and this will make renting accommodation in Barking and Dagenham even more attractive for benefit claimants. Universal Credit will replace individual benefit payments with a transitional move starting in October 2013 through to 2017. It will be paid directly to claimants one month in arrears. This will pose problems for households who have difficulty budgeting and who currently have their rent paid directly to their landlord. Clearly this has the potential to cause tenants to fall into rent arrears and face eviction – with all the detrimental and negative impacts upon health and well-being likely to follow.

 

The number of people in the main priority need groups to whom the Council has accepted a full homelessness duty has reduced over the last three years, although the numbers homeless due to physical disability or mental illness is fluctuating from year to year (Figure 5.05). 

 

Figure 5.05: Numbers in main priority need groups who are homeless 2008/09 – 2011/12

Main Priority Need Groups

 

2008/09

2009/10

2010/11

2011/12

Household with child/ren/pregnancy

235

157

156

150

Single people 16/17 yrs – 18/20 yrs

25

30

9

8

Physical disability

11

8

18

9

Mental illness

17

28

25

21

Source: London Borough of Barking & Dagenham HSSA data

 

The reasons why people become legally homes are also reflected in the data on main causes of homelessness (Figure 5.06).  This shows that the most common reason is a breakdown in relationships with parents or relatives.

 

Figure 5.06: Main causes of homelessness 2008/9 – 2011/12

Main Causes of Homelessness

 

2008/09

2009/10

2010/11

2011/12

From Parents/relatives

144

109

120

69

Relationship breakdown - violence

21

15

22

28

Loss of private rented accommodation

71

45

47

64

Mortgage arrears

20

1

5

4

Source: London Borough of Barking & Dagenham HSSA data

Barking and Dagenham is attractive to people with low and medium incomes because housing costs for all tenure types, including home ownership and private sector tenancies, are relatively inexpensive for London. 

 

Figure 5.07 shows the decisions made about those who applied to be classified as homeless.  About half of the applicants are black and minority ethnic households. Although the numbers of applicants have increased, the number actually meeting the criteria for statutory homelessness has reduced. 

 

Figure 5.07: Applications and decisions to be declared statutory homeless Barking and Dagenham 2008/09 – 2011/12

Homeless Decisions

 

2008/09

2009/10

2010/11

2011/12

 

Total

BME

Total

BME

Total

BME

Total

BME

Statutory homeless

306

185

232

110

221

75

199

107

Intentionally homeless

74

44

67

21

25

12

12

4

No priority need

22

15

146

45

197

78

46

16

 

117

80

237

109

269

91

128

61

Ineligible households

5

5

29

8

27

16

23

20

 

524

324 62%]

711

293 [41%]

639

272 [43%]

408

208

[51%]

Source: LBBD HSSA data

 

 

 

The majority of those accepted as statutory homeless were young people.  Figure 5.08 shows the age breakdown.  The reduced number of young people aged 16 – 24 years reflects the decrease in the overall number declared statutory homeless in 2010/11.

 

 

 

Figure 5.08: Age breakdown for those accepted as statutory homeless, Barking and Dagenham, 2008/09 – 2011/12

Age

 

2008/09

2009/10

2010/11

2011/12

16-24

132

101

79

54

25-44

148

102

115

125

45-59

22

26

21

15

60-64

2

2

1

4

65-74

1

1

4

1

75+

1

0

1

0

Source: LBBD HSSA data

 

 

The household type that predominates amongst those accepted as statutory homeless is lone parent (Figure 5.09).

 

Figure 5.09: Household type for those accepted as statutory homeless, Barking and Dagenham, 2008/09 – 2011/12

Household Type

2008/09

 

2009/10

2010/11

2011/12

Couple with child/ren

62

50

45

31

Lone Parent

173

104

110

119

Single person

71

75

64

46

Others

0

3

2

3

Source: LBBD HSSA data

 

Although the restrictions on Local Authorities to build new homes within their areas are reducing, there are still insufficient numbers of public sector properties to meet both current and future identified needs.

 

The number of homeless approaches from working applicants unable to afford their rent or mortgage is increasing and often the cost of temporary accommodation is higher than their former housing charges. 

 

Actions taken by the Council to reduce the number of homeless people include:

 

A contract with public sector landlords that is compatible with Local Housing Allowance regulations.

A choice-based lettings scheme operated by the council for public sector tenancies, continuing to allocate tenancies to both homeless and qualifying persons under the Housing Act 1996

External funding of £1.3 million which has enabled the council to bring over 200 empty properties in the borough back into use during 2011/12

A Rent Deposit Scheme that has assisted over 400 homeless households since 2007/08 to obtain suitable private rented tenancies pending offers from the housing waiting list.  Less than 5% of these tenants have been placed outside Barking and Dagenham. 

The Court Advocacy Scheme, implemented in September 2009, has successfully obtained suspended possession orders in all cases.  The homeowners have all maintained the payment arrangements made at Court and no homelessness applications have been made. 

The Council obtained external funding for Overcrowding and Under-occupation services from April 2009 which has resulted in 227 moves, mainly via the Seaside and Country Homes scheme, and released 381 bedrooms.

 

Close partnerships between Housing, Benefits, Planning services and the private rented and Registered Social Landlords [RSLs] sectors, including the Private Landlords Forum.

 

5.3.1 Proposed strategic approach

 

·         In order to keep pace with the rapid and profound changes and increased demand,  a further structure review of the Housing Advice Service will be carried out in 2013/14 to ensure the generation of a sufficient supply of accommodation and that new demand is robustly managed.

  

·         A review is being carried out on Mutual Exchanges to ensure that our processes and resources are adequate to support a significant increase in requests for such moves which will be a way to assist tenants who are under-occupying and unable to meet the shortfall in their rent.

 

·         Following the successful conversion of Brocklebank Lodge a former care home to unit for homeless single people, further plans are in hand to convert another former care home for homeless families thereby continuing to provide alternative temporary accommodation and reduce the reliance upon bed and breakfast. Further potential sites will be sought.

 

·         The Council’s Housing Allocations Policy is currently under review. The Localism Act enables the council to create a policy that suits local prevailing housing conditions. There has been significant Member involvement in the development of the policy which will impose a residential qualification to new applicants.

 

·         The Council is in contract with the GLA and will complete 762 new affordable homes by April 2015. In addition there will be a further 300 Council homes developed by 2018.

 

·         The Council has committed to set up a Social Letting Agency in 2014, and deliver savings to the general fund. The intention being to work directly with Landlords to procure property for use for homeless households and save on costs incurred by using accommodation agents to manage this process. We are currently exploring the opportunity of bringing forward this action, to procure property to use as a means of homeless prevention and thereby avoid the longer term homeless duties and costs associated in providing temporary accommodation. This approach would enable the council to offer out of borough /London private rented properties as an option to those interested is relocating without breaching suitability regulations. We are currently in talks with Waltham Forest who have successfully set up a Social Letting Agency using their rent deposit staff and funding as a launch pad. A pilot proposal is currently being drafted.

 

Finally, in common with most London Boroughs we are exploring the feasibility of acquiring Council owned property out of London that could be an affordable option for tenants who wish to downsize and would enhance the existing Seaside and Country Homes scheme that Barking and Dagenham tenants utilise more than any other London Borough.

 

 

 

 

 

Recommendations for Commissioners

 

Commissioners will need to develop a new B&D Homelessness Strategy which will analyse and focus solutions upon the linked health and well-being issues.

 

Commissioners will need to ensure the new B&D Allocations Policy addresses health and well-being outcomes.

 

Commissioners need to develop and raise the profiles of a range of housing options including increasing the supply of affordable housing, and associated tenancy sustainment where necessary, to meet the rising demand for housing.

 

The number of new public sector properties being built in the borough should be maximised.

 

 

 


 



[1]http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/HomeAndCommunity/Councilandhousingassociationhomes/Findingsomewhere/DG_4001401