Housing minister welcomes drop in homelessness but London figures soar

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Housing Minister Kris Hopkins has welcomed an overall country-wide drop in homelessness figures, despite a rise in London. 

The latest statistics from the Department for Communities and Local Government show that 12,890 applicants were accepted as homeless between 1 October and December 31 in England last year - a 5% drop on the same quarter in 2012.

However, in London, which accounts for over a third (34%) of the country's homeless total, the amount of acceptances rose by 3% in 2013's Q4, compared with same period in 2012.

Welcoming the statistics, Hopkins said: “We’ve maintained funding of £470million to ensure anyone facing the prospect of homelessness has the help they need. And it’s working.

“I want to praise councils for the efforts they have made to protect the most vulnerable in their communities, and to urge them to build on this success so we can bring the numbers of people facing homelessness down even further.”

According to the DCLG, the main reason for the rise in homeless applications in London was the ending of an assured shorthold tenancy, which was the cause in 33% of cases (1,430).

London Assembly Green Party Member Darren Johnson slammed the rise in the capital. He said: “These figures show that London is being badly hit by the housing crisis and welfare cuts. Homelessness is still rising, and families are being moved out of their local area because councils can’t find cheap enough homes to rent, forcing them to take their children out of school, potentially lose their job and leave their support networks behind.

“The biggest cause of homelessness is landlords turfing people out. We urgently need more security for private tenants and regulations to stabilise rents so homeless families can be housed properly, otherwise they will be left sofa surfing, living out of B&Bs, or they will be shipped out of London to somewhere cheaper.”

Hopkins also welcomed figures that show a 42% drop in the amount of families living in bed and breakfast accommodation for more than the legal limit of six weeks.

The seven councils that accounted for the highest levels of households put up in B&Bs for over the legal time limit each received a share of a £1.7 million government pay out last August.

And the local authorities have reported a collective 96% reduction in the number of families in B&Bs since receiving the funds: Barking and Dagenham 91%; Birmingham 100%; Crawley 100%; Croydon 100%; Hounslow 95%; Redbridge 86%; Westminster 100%.

Hopkins said the law was clear that no family should be housed in B&Bs for more than six weeks, and called on councils in breach of the law to up their game and take action.

The minister said: “Today I’m pleased to see a 5% drop in the numbers of people in that situation, and a massive 42% drop in the numbers of families in bed and breakfast accommodation for more than six weeks."