London Mayor calls for immediate rent freeze as homelessness rises

The government is being urged to take decisive action in the autumn statement to invest in housing benefit.

A photo of a blanket laying on cardboard boxes on a street

More people are becoming homeless because of the cost-of-living crisis, new figures show. In London, rough sleeping has risen by a fifth.

Data from the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) shows that from April to September, 3,628 people were sleeping on the streets in the capital, marking a 24 percent increase on the same period in 2021.

625 women were seen sleeping rough, a 25 percent increase on the previous three months, the data shows. The number of people seen intermittently sleep rough was 16 percent higher than the same period last year. CHAIN’s research also found that 84 percent of people accommodated between July and September were placed in either emergency or temporary accommodation as councils struggle to secure affordable, long-term homes.

Government ‘must act now’

Responding to the data, London Mayor Sadiq Khan warned of a “revolving door of people ending up homeless” because of the rising cost of living and called for an immediate rent freeze.

“This cannot be allowed to continue. This new government must act now to prevent the circumstances that lead to people sleeping rough before thousands more are forced to face a winter on the streets,” Sadiq Khan warned.

The homeless charity Crisis has made similar warnings, saying that unless the government takes action in the autumn budget such as increasing housing benefit so it covers the cost of rents, demand for emergency accommodation over the winter will rise.

Matt Downie, Crisis Chief Executive, referred to the figures as “frightening.”

It is disastrous to see the incredible progress made during the pandemic evaporating before our eyes. Every case of rough sleeping is a person going through the trauma, danger and despair of life on the streets, and we see every day the severe consequences it has on the rest of people’s lives.  

“Our services across the country are seeing rough sleeping and wider homelessness rising fast. This is made worse by the cost of living crisis – but let’s be clear that these dire economic times are only adding fuel to a crisis that has been burning away for years.  

Downie added that the government must take decisive action in the autumn statement to invest in housing benefit.

“This will stem the flow of people onto our streets and help people who are homeless to afford a place to live. In the long run we need a concrete plan that will deliver the social homes we need to finally end homelessness for good. We know what it takes to prevent and end homelessness – there can be no excuse anymore,” he added.

St Mungo’s, which works to prevent homelessness and support people on their recovery from homelessness, says it too is witnessing “the very real and harsh reality of the financial crisis.”

“With more price increases it is very likely many of those currently just scraping by will no longer be able to manage, and could be at real risk of losing their homes and experiencing a very harsh winter. Action is needed now,” said Rebecca Sycamore, St Mungo’s interim chief executive.

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

Image credit: Blodeuwed – Creative Commons

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