Soaring number of households facing homelessness in England



Graphic for the The Homelessness Monitor England 2023, commissioned by Crisis and led by Heriot-Watt University
The Homelessness Monitor: England 2023 was commissioned by Crisis and led by Heriot-Watt University.

New research led by Heriot-Watt University for charity Crisis has revealed that nearly a quarter of a million households across England (242,000) are now experiencing the worst forms of homelessness. This includes sleeping on the streets, spending night after night on sofas or being stuck in unsuitable temporary accommodation like nightly paid B&Bs.

The annual study is the strongest evidence yet of how the cost-of-living crisis, rising rents and widespread destitution are driving homelessness levels and making it harder for councils to provide people with effective support.  

The findings, which draw on a national survey of councils, statistical analysis and in-depth interviews, shows how over three quarters (85%) of councils across England are facing an increase in people experiencing homelessness – the highest number reporting this in any year since the survey began.

With record numbers of people experiencing homelessness, the vast majority of councils are expecting this already dire situation to become even worse.

Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick, Heriot-Watt University

Many stated that the ongoing freeze to housing benefit, dwindling social housing supply and a general lack of affordable housing was making it increasingly difficult to support struggling households out of homelessness.

The report also lays bare how unstable the private rented market has become. 88% of councils reported an increase in requests for support from those evicted from the private rented sector while 93% anticipate a further increase over the coming year.

As councils' access to social housing has declined over the years, local authorities are increasingly turning to the private rented sector to try and house low-income households. But the report highlights how surging rents and fierce competition for properties is making it near impossible to house people experiencing homelessness in some areas of the country, with the overwhelming majority (97%) of local authorities stating they have struggled to source private rentals over the past year.4

With councils running out of suitable longer-term housing options, they are increasingly reliant on temporary accommodation – with the number of households living in such accommodation now at record levels. Concerningly, the report highlights how the use of temporary accommodation is reaching breaking point. This forces councils to rely on inappropriate forms of accommodation as a solution, meaning thousands of people - including families with children - live for long periods of time in B&Bs or nightly paid accommodation. Often in poor condition and without necessities like cooking and washing facilities, it is estimated that the number of households in unsuitable temporary accommodation has tripled over the past ten years.

Worryingly, the research forecasts that the number of households living in unsuitable temporary accommodation is expected to almost double over the next twenty years if the Westminster Government doesn’t take action to address the challenges councils are facing, affecting an estimated 49,500 households by 2041.  

Crisis is issuing a stark warning to the Government that unless it takes steps to build more genuinely affordable homes and invests in housing benefit, then homelessness will dramatically rise over the coming year.

Matt Downie, Chief Executive at Crisis, said: "The homelessness system is at breaking point. Temporary accommodation should be a short-term emergency measure yet, as the report shows, it is increasingly becoming the default solution for many councils. This is leaving thousands of people living out their lives in a permanent state of limbo, enduring cramped, unsuitable conditions – with a fifth of households in temporary accommodation stuck there for over five years.5  

“It comes as no surprise that councils are reporting that they are running out of temporary accommodation. For too long the emphasis has been on managing homelessness, not building the social homes we need to provide security to low-income households.

“The alarm bells are ringing loud and clear. The Government must address the chronic lack of social housing and increase housing benefit, so it covers the true cost of rents. We cannot allow this situation to escalate further and consign more lives to the misery of homelessness.”

Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick, from Heriot-Watt University, said: "This report highlights how councils across the country are facing an impossible situation. With record numbers of people experiencing homelessness, the vast majority of councils are expecting this already dire situation to become even worse.

“Without access to affordable private rented homes or social housing, we are only going to see more and more households forced into homelessness. We need to address the root causes that are pushing people into homelessness in the first place to ensure that everyone has a safe place to call home.”

The Homelessness Monitor: England 2023 was commissioned by Crisis and led by Heriot-Watt University, as part of the Homelessness Monitor series. It provides an independent analysis of the homelessness impacts of recent economic and policy developments across England.


Annie Pugh