Increase in housing demand
The number of people applying for a Council home in Hackney is rising. There are currently nearly 13,000 people on our housing waiting list, and up to 500 more apply to be added each month.
Last year, we were able to offer properties to 1,187 people on our waiting list. This means it would take more than 10 years to house everybody currently waiting, even if nobody else applied.
About 3,000 of the people on our waiting list are homeless families in temporary accommodation. This number has tripled in 5 years and continues to rise, costing the Council large amounts of money in payments to hostel owners and private landlords.
Temporary accommodation is the term used for a property which is being used by a council to home people who approach it as homeless. Temporary accommodation – such as hostels, bed and breakfasts and privately rented housing – is used when a council has no social housing available.
Over the last 5 years, the number of families in temporary accommodation in Hackney has steadily increased as more residents have come to the Council for help and the demand for our social housing far outstrips our supply.
We currently place nearly 3,000 households most in need of somewhere to live in temporary accommodation until a permanent home can be found for them, and nearly a third of these are outside of the borough.
Unfortunately, the increasing demand for social housing means people can wait in temporary accommodation for many years. Last year alone, the average went up by nearly four months. Although they may not be sleeping rough, these families are Hackney’s hidden homeless – alongside those stuck sleeping on sofas or in overcrowded households in our borough.
The Council believes our borough should be a place where everyone is able to live and work. As well as building thousands of new homes for social rent, we are also campaigning against the Government to do more to help those struggling to find an affordable place to call home.
Housing is increasingly unaffordable for the majority of Hackney residents. The average price of a home has increased by 82% in the last 5 years, and Hackney has seen the biggest average increase in house prices in the country in the last 20 years.
Private rent levels are also very high, with an average rent of £1,800 per month for a two-bedroom flat, a 34% increase since 2011. Soaring rents mean a tenant would need to earn £51,000 a year just to afford the average one-bedroom flat.
Government welfare reform is also making this problem worse, with the further benefit cap reduction to £23,000 in London meaning less money for about 1,500 households in Hackney, the majority of whom are in the private sector.
Reforms since 2010 to cap and change in the calculation of local housing allowance – the form of housing benefit you can claim if you rent from a private landlord – mean that it no longer covers the average rent in Hackney. This means families on low incomes, or those struggling to meet household costs because of a job loss or rent increase, are at a much-increased risk of eviction – with very few other affordable housing options available in the borough.
Eviction from the private rented sector is now the number one reason residents approach the Council for homelessness support.
Responding to the challenge
The Council has one of the country’s biggest housing regeneration programmes. We’re building more than 9,000 new homes for social rent, shared ownership and outright sale to replace ageing properties uneconomical to repair.
On estates undergoing regeneration, where homes are set for demolition and are no longer permanently occupied, we aim to quickly refurbish them so they can be used as temporary accommodation until demolition work starts. We’ve already used 317 empty homes in this way, and we’re refurbishing another 253.
We’re also doing everything we can to expand the number of properties we can use as temporary accommodation in Hackney. We’ve bought and refurbished three hostels, and set up a social lettings agency to encourage private landlords to let us use their properties for people in housing need.
For those at risk of homelessness, we’ve expanded our support and advice services, including opening a housing hub with the charity Shelter where private renters at risk of eviction can get help with rent arrears, disrepair problems and more.
Like many other councils in London, Hackney is facing an unprecedented homelessness crisis on a scale that it cannot solve alone. Government restrictions on housebuilding mean we can’t build the number of social housing to meet demand, and finding suitable temporary accommodation for those most in need is becoming increasingly difficult and costly to taxpayers.
The Government’s Homelessness Reduction Act will put additional duties and demands on local authorities, which we estimate will cost the Council around £11million in the first year and continue to rise.
Fundamentally, appropriate temporary accommodation is running out in London. Currently, the vast majority of residents in temporary accommodation are placed in Hackney or neighbouring boroughs. In the future, this is likely to be unsustainable unless the Government radically changes its policies. Like most other councils in the capital have already done, the Council will be forced to consider placing residents outside of London where accommodation is affordable.
We will also offer some residents in temporary accommodation a permanent move to a privately rented home outside of London – especially if they have no health, educational or work links to Hackney.
For these families, living outside of the borough may be more sustainable in the long-term, with lower rents in other parts of the country allowing them to better meet their household costs and avoid rent arrears.