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Homelessness and the Temporary Accommodation Crisis: The Toll on Local Authorities and the Community

by Matt Gleeson


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The temporary accommodation (TA) crisis refers to a critical situation characterised by an acute shortage of long-term, stable housing, leading to an increased reliance on short-term, often inadequate housing solutions. This crisis has now escalated to unprecedented levels, reflecting a deepening housing crisis more generally, that demands immediate attention and action. This situation has resulted in a significant increase in the number of individuals and families relying on local authorities for emergency or temporary housing solutions, with profound implications for both the affected communities and the local authorities tasked with providing support.

Understanding the Temporary Accommodation Crisis
The TA crisis stems from a chronic lack of available and sustainable housing, leading to an overreliance on temporary solutions. Recent statistics underscore the severity of the situation; analysis from the Local Government Association (LGA) indicates that the use of temporary accommodation has surged by 89% in the last decade, reaching around 104,000 households. This represents the highest level ever recorded, putting an unprecedented strain on local authorities across the nation.

Financial Burdens on Local Authorities
The financial impact on local councils is staggering. In the 2022/23 period alone, the cost of providing temporary accommodation reached approximately £1.74 billion, marking the highest expenditure recorded by councils to date. This escalating cost, against the backdrop of already stretched budgets, not only exacerbates existing budgetary gaps but also threatens the financial stability of many councils, with Hastings and Crawley Borough Councils issuing dire warnings. As we know, these gloomy predictions of the issuance of Section 114 notices are all too real, as we have seen Birmingham, Nottingham and Woking Councils all hit in the last 12 months alone, providing a stark indicator of the wider financial distress local authorities are under. Into that landscape, the rising demand for temporary accommodation, compounded by increasing costs and a scarcity of affordable housing stock is putting an unprecedented financial toll on many councils.

Impact on the Community
Unfortunately, the repercussions of the TA crisis extend far beyond just the financial implications for local councils, they also deeply affect the communities which they serve. The lack of affordable housing and the resulting increase in the use of temporary accommodation both contribute to further societal issues. These include heightened levels of homelessness, which in turn is linked to increased mental and physical health problems, higher crime rates, and ultimately, diminished levels of future employment opportunities. These are compounding challenges, which place additional financial pressures on the already overstretched public services, with little indication of any forthcoming support to alleviate these burdens.

Staff Wellbeing
The crisis also exerts immense pressure on the staff of local authorities, who face the unenviable task of meeting the complex housing needs of their communities with limited resources, both in funding terms and in available housing stock. 

As a direct result of the pressures being felt by homelessness and temporary accommodation teams, we have seen a significant increase in staff turnover. This increase in staff turnover has only added to the stresses felt by local authorities, creating a threatening skills shortage of those with direct housing needs experience.  

How can local authorities navigate their way out of this?
There is little doubt that in order to address the temporary accommodation crisis there is a vital need for increased support from central government. Local authorities have called for higher local housing allowances, more substantial annual funding, and additional grants in order to combat homelessness and keep their services running effectively. 

Moreover, there is a growing recognition of the value of interim support in tackling the challenges posed by the crisis. This has mainly been down to two reasons. The first and most obvious is to help add much needed capacity to council teams who are already being pushed towards breaking point. . We have seen recent examples of interims being able to conduct essential service and policy audits, which existing members of the team simply do not not have the capacity to complete given the pressures discussed above. 

Just as critically, they can play a significant role in tackling the impact of specific skills shortages. Interims/consultants with more niche skills can be utilised to great advantage to help tackle issues such as budget overspends within a temporary accommodation context for example. 

The temporary accommodation crisis is one with far-reaching consequences. As it continues to evolve, it is clear that both immediate and long-term strategies are needed to mitigate its impact on local authorities, communities, and the individuals and families directly affected. It is clear that unless central government extends its support to local authorities, the temporary accommodation crisis will only continue to grow, creating a bleak outlook for local authorities' future. Of course the crisis can be mitigated in the short-term as discussed, utilising external interim support and expanding local partnerships. However, it would seem the long-term solution all but lies with further support and change from Number 10. 

Stay in touch
We would welcome a conversation with you to discuss some of these points in more detail. We also invite you to stay engaged with us as we explore further topics in housing.


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