Key points

Newly recognised homeless households

  • All the statistics below relate to England only.  This is because the data for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is not comparable.  See the ScotlandWales and Northern Ireland indicators for the equivalent analyses for each of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  • 61,000 households (excluding the intentionally homeless) in England were officially recognised as newly homeless by their local authorities in 2010.
  • The number of newly homeless households has fallen sharply each year since 2003 and the 2010 figure of 61,000 households is only a third of the 2003 number (202,000).
  • Just over half of the households officially recognised as newly homeless do not contain dependent children.  The distinction between with, and without children, is important because many of the latter do not qualify for accommodation (i.e. they are considered ‘not to be in priority need’).
  • Although most prevalent in the West Midlands and in London, homelessness is to be found throughout the country.
  • The most common reason for becoming homeless is loss of accommodation provided by relatives or friends (a third of those deemed ‘in priority need’), with a further fifth being due to relationship breakdown.
  • A quarter of those accepted as homeless and in priority need by English local authorities are from ethnic minorities.  This means that ethnic minority households are, overall, around three times as likely to become homeless as the majority White population.
  • Many of those who are effectively homeless live in concealed households – households which neither own nor rent the property that they are living in.  Most of these people do not have dependent children.

In temporary accommodation

  • The number of homeless households in temporary accommodation can be seen as a measure of the capacity of local authorities to meet the needs of those homeless households whom they have a duty to accommodate.  In the first quarter of 2011, there were around 60,000 homeless households in temporary accommodation in Great Britain.  Whilst this number is similar to that in the late 1990s, it is well below the peak of 110,000 in 2005.
  • The number of households in temporary accommodation is an order of magnitude greater in London than elsewhere: at more than 1% of all households, it is around ten times the level in the rest of the south of England and more than twenty times the level in the North and Midlands.  As a result, London has three-quarters of all households in temporary accommodation.
  • A third of households leaving temporary accommodation in 2010 had stayed there for a year or more, and the majority of these had been there for two years or more.  It is a moot point whether stays of such a long duration can properly be described as ‘temporary’, or indeed whether ‘temporary accommodation’ is appropriate for such long stays.

Why this indicator was originally chosen

Homelessness both causes and is caused by many other aspects of poverty and social exclusion, including financial problems, lack of work and deterioration in mental and physical health.

Local authorities have a responsibility to provide accommodation for many (but not all) of those accepted as homeless, who are given at least some form of temporary accommodation.  But homelessness can also take other forms, such as young people living in hostels and squats or having to remain with their parents for financial reasons.

Definitions and data sources

A household is recognised by their local authority as homeless if they both meet the legal definition of homelessness and they apply to their local authority to be classified as such.  If they are classified as unintentionally homeless, the local authority’s duty towards this household then depend on whether they deem them to be ‘in priority need’ – in which case they have a duty to provide accommodation – or ‘not in priority need’ – in which case they have no duty to provide accommodation.  All households with children are automatically deemed to be ‘in priority need’.

The first graph shows the number of households in England who were newly recognised as homeless by their local authority in each of the stated years, with the data split between those with and without dependent children.  It includes both those ‘in priority need’ and those ‘not in priority need’ but excludes those deemed to be intentionally homeless (a relatively small number) as division by family type is not available for this group.  In line with the department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) guidance, the numbers with children are assumed to be the same as the numbers who are in priority need because they have children.

Scotland, Wales and Northern are not included in this graph because the legislative environment is somewhat different (but see the equivalent ScotlandWales and Northern Ireland indicators).

The second graph shows, for the latest year, how the proportion of households newly recognised as homeless by their local authority varies by English region.

The third and fourth graphs both provide, for the latest year, a breakdown of the households that were newly recognised by local authorities in England as being both homeless and ‘in priority need’ (no equivalent statistics are kept for those ‘not in priority need’).  The third graph shows a breakdown according to the reason why the household became homeless and the fourth graph provides a breakdown by ethnic group.

The data source for the first four graphs is the DCLG Statutory Homelessness England, Statistical Releases.

The fifth, sixth and seventh graphs are concerned with households who have been officially recognised as homeless and ‘in priority need’ but who have been placed by their local authority in temporary, rather than permanent, accommodation.  ‘Temporary accommodation’ includes bed-and-breakfast, hostel accommodation, private renting, and other.  Households who are ‘homeless at home’ are excluded from the analysis as this data is not available for Scotland.

The fifth graph shows the number of homeless households who were in temporary accommodation arranged by their local authority, as measured at the end of the first quarter of each year.  The data is for Great Britain.

The data source for the fifth graph is DCLG Statutory Homelessness England Statistical ReleasesScottish Government Housing Statisticsand Welsh Office Housing Statistics.

The sixth graph shows how the prevalence of homeless households in temporary accommodation varies by region.  The data is for England.

The seventh graph provides a breakdown of those household leaving in temporary accommodation in the latest year by the length of time they had spent there.  Note that equivalent data for earlier years is not directly comparable as it relates to households leaving temporary accommodation under the provisions of the 1996 Housing Act rather than all households leaving temporary accommodation.

The data source for the sixth and seventh graphs is DCLG Statutory Homelessness England, Statistical Releases. and the data relates to England only.

The legal definition of homelessness is based on the principles that the person/household either lacks a ‘licence to occupy’ a home or it is not reasonable for them to have to occupy their current home.  Determination of both of these issues is a matter of judgement.  The eighth graph lists a numbers of groups within the English population who arguably both of these conditions and thus could be considered to be effectively homeless.  All the estimates are ‘point in time’ estimates, with the estimates shown separately for households with and without dependent children.  The groups are:

  • Rough sleepers (source: various surveys).
  • In non-permanent supported housing (source: the CORE database; note that the data is not publicly available).
  • Bed-and-breakfast and other boarded accommodation (source: DWP Housing Benefit Statistics; note that the data is not publicly available).
  • People aged 25 and over in ‘concealed households’ (households who do not own or rent the property they are living in nor are the spouse of that person) who are sharing accommodation which is overcrowded (source: the household dataset from the English Housing Survey).
  • People aged 25 and over in concealed households who are sharing non-overcrowded accommodation where the owners/renters they are sharing with are dissatisfied (source: the household dataset from the English Housing Survey).

Overall adequacy of the indicator: medium.  While there is no reason to believe there is any problem with the underlying data, the extent to which it leaves ‘homelessness’ dependent on administrative judgement is not satisfactory.  In particular, the figures may not include many single people who are effectively homeless, as local authorities have no general duty to house such people and therefore many may not apply.

External links

Relevant 2007 Public Service Agreements

Overall aim:  Increase long-term housing supply and affordability

Lead department

Department for Communities and Local Government

Official national targets

Increase the number of net additional homes provided per annum to 240,000 by 2016.

Increase the number of gross affordable homes provided per annum to 70,000 by 2010-11 including 45,000 social homes.

Halve the number of households in temporary accommodation to 50,500 households by 2010.

By March 2011, 80% of local planning authorities to have adopted the necessary Development Plan Documents, in accordance with their agreed Local Development Scheme.

Other indicators of progress

Trends in affordability.

Efficiency rating of new homes.

Previous 2004 targets

Achieve a better balance between housing availability and the demand for housing, including improving affordability. in all English regions while protecting valuable countryside around our towns, cities and in the green belt and the sustainability of towns and cities.

By 2010, bring all social housing into decent condition with most of this improvement taking place in deprived areas, and for vulnerable households in the private sector, including families with children, increase the proportion who live in homes that are in decent condition.

The numbers

Graph 1

Year Households with dependent children Households without dependent children
1997 59 101
1998 62 99
1999 62 98
2000 65 98
2001 67 105
2002 67 117
2003 69 134
2004 65 126
2005 52 97
200642 69
200737 52
200834 41
200924 34
201025 36

Graph 2

East 0.2%
East Midlands 0.3%
London 0.5%
North East 0.3%
North West 0.3%
South East 0.2%
South West 0.2%
West Midlands 0.6%
Yorkshire and The Humber 0.4%

Graph 3

Loss of accommodation with relatives/friends 33%
Relationship breakdown 20%
Loss of tenancy 20%
Mortgage/rent arrears 5%
Other reasons 22%

Graph 4

White 72%
Black / Black British15%
Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi 6%
Other ethnic origin 7%

Graph 5

1997 45,000
1998 52,000
1999 61,000
2000 70,000
2001 80,000
2002 85,000
2003 96,000
2004 106,000
2005 110,000
2006 107,000

Graph 6

East 0.11%
East Midlands 0.04%
London 1.10%
North East 0.02%
North West 0.03%
South East 0.11%
South West 0.09%
West Midlands 0.06%
Yorkshire and The Humber 0.04%

Graph 7

Under six months61%
6 to 12 months11%
1 to 2 years9%
More than 2 years19%

Graph 8

Groups of people who are effectively homeless (thousands at any point in time)
With dependent children Without dependent children Total
Rough sleepers 0.5
Bed-and-breakfast and other board accommodation 3 30 33
In non-permanent supported housing 5 33 38
Aged 25+ in concealed households in overcrowded accommodation 33 130 163
Aged 25+ in concealed households in non-overcrowded accommodation but where the owner/renter is dissatisfied 3 41 44