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Escalating homelessness crisis in UK cities

Key Cities Newsdesk
March 15, 2024
The Chair and Deputy Chairs of Key Cities have written to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to ask him to deliver interventions to tackle the homelessness crisis in cities across the country.

Dear Secretary of State,

Following the Spring Budget, we are writing to urge you to deliver immediate interventions to relieve the escalating homelessness crisis that is threatening to overwhelm cities up and down the country, many of whom are now reaching breaking point.

As a national network of 27 cities across England and Wales, Key Cities’ members are currently tackling a combined council housing waiting list of 134,882 households. The combination of soaring private sector rents and an acute shortage of truly affordable housing has created a dire situation for residents, particularly the most vulnerable, leading to an unprecedented surge in homelessness in our cities.

In the midst of a severe housing shortage, it was disappointing the Spring Budget failed to address the national housing and homelessness crisis, which according to the LGA is costing local authorities a staggering £1.74 billion annually in providing temporary accommodation – an 89 per cent increase over the past decade.

In member cities like Salford and Coventry for example, spiralling numbers of homelessness have created a dire situation, with temporary accommodation (TA) numbers far surpassing available provision. Since 2022, the number of households in TA in Salford has more than doubled to 695, including 962 children, while in Coventry TA numbers have increased from 739 to 1089 within just a nine month period between January 2003 and September 2023.

This situation simply cannot continue and has been significantly exacerbated since Christmas, primarily due to the Home Office’s accelerated asylum seeker programme, which is continuing to increase the number of people presenting as homeless, concentrated in the main dispersal areas across the country.

In addition, delays to the government enshrining in law the Renter’s Reform Bill, specifically the banning of Section 21 no-fault evictions, the continued chronic under-supply of council and social housing, delays to uplifts to the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) announced in the government’s Autumn Statement, and the ‘priority need’ provision within the Homelessness Reduction Act for councils in England are all significantly exacerbating the housing and homelessness crisis in cities.

In light of this pressing situation, Key Cities is calling on the government to take immediate steps to stabilise the fractured housing market and institute long-term strategic solutions to homelessness including:

  • Urgent Localised Financial Support to address the short-term surge in homelessness following asylum seeker decisions, ensuring a roof over people’s heads.
  • Bringing forward the Renters Reform Bill and announcing a date for the repeal of Section 21 No Fault evictions to alleviate its role as a significant driver of homelessness.
  • An immediate review of Housing Benefit Subsidy Rules to ensure local authorities can provide cost-effective temporary accommodation eligible for full housing benefit subsidy.
  • Significant increase in Social Housing Grants to bring forward much needed new council and social housing that accounts for the rising costs of building homes in brownfield locations and the increased costs of construction materials.
  • Changes to Selective Licensing Rules to allow schemes to run for longer periods, enabling more extended-term interventions for positive impacts.


Additionally, we stress the need for councils to possess powers to safeguard their investments in housing, along with increased flexibility to tailor right-to-buy schemes according to the unique requirements of local areas. This urgent step would relieve the immediate pressure currently overwhelming our cities and will significantly aid in addressing the evolving complexities of homelessness and housing crises.

We firmly believe that these urgent actions will contribute to stabilising the housing market and lay the groundwork for long-term solutions to homelessness in cities across the UK. And we would welcome an opportunity for our members to speak with you and your department urgently to work together for the benefit of all our communities.


Yours Sincerely,

Cllr John Merry, Chair of Key Cities,  Deputy City Mayor of Salford City Council

Cllr Jane Mudd, Deputy Chair of Key Cities, Leader of Newport City Council

Cllr Richard Cook, Deputy Chair of Key Cities, Leader of Gloucester City Council

Cllr Kevin Guy, Deputy Chair of Key Cities, Leader of Bath & Northeast Somerset Council

Cllr Lorna Fielker, Portfolio lead for Housing for Key Cities, Leader of Southampton City Council

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