Report from Shelter -Temporary accommodation the new social housing?

Fr Dominic Robinson, SJ, Parish Priest of Farm Street Church, Mayfair, and co-ordinator of the Central London Catholic Churches Homelessness Service

Source: ICN/Shelter/CLCC

Last week it was revealed that nearly 100,000 households in England are homeless and living in temporary accommodation. This includes more than 120,000 children.

Temporary accommodation is extremely insecure, often cramped, and poor quality. It’s also far from ‘temporary’ – with some families living in it for over a decade. And its very expensive – with most rents being paid to private landlords.

Hannah Rich, Senior Research Officer with Shelter writes: “Instead of spending billions on such poor-quality accommodation, which can be incredibly damaging to children, it’s clear what we should be doing. We should be investing in genuinely affordable, decent, permanent and well-regulated social housing.

This would help to truly level up the life chances for families right across the country. Not least as the growing cost of living crisis adds fuel to our housing emergency.

Temporary accommodation is the name given to the accommodation that is offered to people who seek help from their council because they are homeless. Councils have a legal duty to accommodate most homeless families until a suitable settled home is offered.

More than a quarter (27%) of these households are accommodated outside the local authority area they previously lived in because councils can’t find suitable accommodation locally. This can lead to long, tiring journeys to school and work and families becoming isolated from support networks. The number of households living in temporary accommodation is now approaching levels last seen in the mid-2000s. In the last 10 years alone it has increased by 96%.

As well as being insecure and unsuitable, temporary accommodation is also hugely costly. New figures show that councils in England spent £1.45 billion on the provision of temporary accommodation between April 2020 and March 2021.2 This cost is covered in part by housing benefit and people having to top up their rent.

The cost of providing temporary accommodation has increased by 18% in the last year alone and more than doubled (increased by 157%) in the last 10 years. This means that the cost of temporary accommodation has increased at a greater rate than the number of people living in temporary accommodation.

Of course, housing costs are likely to increase over time. However, this disproportionate increase in the cost of temporary accommodation can be explained, at least in part, by the lucrative market that has emerged in the last few years.

Our recent Cashing In report showed that councils procure most of their temporary accommodation from for-profit private providers, who are often unregulated. This hasn’t changed.

The majority of the £1.45 billion goes to private providers of temporary accommodation. At least £1.16 billion (80%) was spent on accommodation leased by councils and social landlords from private letting agents, landlords or companies. And this doesn’t even include temporary accommodation provided directly by private landlords.

More than a third (38%) of this money was spent on emergency homeless B&Bs – considered some of the least suitable places for families and children to live. Councils in England spent £444 million on this type of accommodation between April 2020 and March 2021.

Almost a fifth (18%) of the total spent on private providers was spent on nightly paid, privately managed accommodation. The amount spent on this type of temporary accommodation has increased by 64% in the last year alone.

This increase reflects a shift from longer-term leasing of private sector accommodation to the charging of expensive nightly rates. The use of this type of accommodation now accounts for a quarter of all temporary accommodation.”

Fr Dominic Robinson, Chair of Westminster Diocese Justice and Peace and Parish Priest at Farm Street Church which offers food and support to homeless people with Central London Catholic Churches (CLCC) commented: “At our service at Farm Street we are seeing more and more guests living in substandard temporary accommodation. This is not a solution to the growing homelessness problem. Our experience tells us we need to come together and develop a holistic approach ….. learning the lessons of the pandemic and building on the good work that has been done already.”


Central London Catholic Churches (CLCC) Homeless Services –

Shelter –