Housing – UK Government assessment
While there has been an ongoing commitment to reduce homelessness, with additional funding and stronger prevention duties for local authorities, this has been insufficient to prevent a continued rise in homelessness and rough sleeping. Some steps have been taken to improve living conditions – for example the launch of a consultation on raising accessibility standards. However, many people still live in overcrowded, insecure or poor quality housing. There remains a chronic shortage of accessible homes, which has an adverse impact on the lives of disabled and older people. Gypsies, Roma and Travellers and asylum seekers face particular housing challenges.
- In 2019/20, 289,000 people were recorded as being homeless or at risk of homelessness in England, an increase of approximately 20,000 since the previous year, with many other cases going undocumented.
- In 2019, an estimated 778 homeless people died in England and Wales, an increase of 38% from 2016.
- Between 2016 and 2019, the estimated number of rough sleepers in England rose by 3%, representing an overall increase of 141% since 2010. During the 2020 pandemic the number fell by 37% following the Government’s ‘Everyone In’ campaign. However, there are concerns over longer-term commitment to these measures, and that the economic impact of the pandemic has begun to drive up new homelessness cases.
- Multiple factors have been identified as contributing to the increase in homelessness, including welfare reforms; a shortfall between housing benefit and the cost of private renting; a lack of affordable housing; and reduced investment in local homelessness services.
- The implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 has improved services for those who would previously have had limited support. However, there have been challenges to the implementation of the legislation.
- Overcrowding has risen every year in England since 2016, reaching 3.5% of all households in 2019 / 20. People living in the social or private rented sector are more likely to live in overcrowded accommodation – 8.7% of social renters live in overcrowded homes, the highest rate in over two decades.
- People from ethnic minorities are disproportionately more likely to live in overcrowded accommodation and Black people are disproportionately more likely to be assessed as being, or at risk of becoming, homeless.
- There is a chronic shortage of accessible housing across Britain, which creates barriers for disabled and older people’s right to independent living and full inclusion within society. In England, only 9% of all homes offer minimal accessibility features.
- Section 36 of the Equality Act 2010, which would extend the duty to provide reasonable adjustments to the common parts of private rented accommodation, has not been brought into force, despite commitments from the UK Government.
- Following the publication of proposals to create a new criminal offence to tackle unauthorised encampments, concerns have been raised about the impact on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people.
- Research has found that changes to planning policy have led to local authorities underestimating the need for accommodation for Gypsies and Travellers.
- Accommodation for asylum seekers is often of a poor standard and does not meet the specific needs of groups such as torture survivors, pregnant women and mothers with small children, and individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder.
- The failure to remove or ban combustible cladding prior to the Grenfell Tower fire represented a failure of the UK’s human rights obligations to protect life and provide safe housing.
Read more about the UK and Welsh Governments’ actions on housing.