Homelessness has reached ‘dramatic proportions’ in the UK, says new report

Houses for sale, and a homeless man sitting on a bench
Support us and go ad-free

Homelessness has reached “dramatic proportions” in the UK, says a new report [pdf]. For the lowest earning people, the cost of housing has risen faster in the UK than almost anywhere in western Europe. This puts more people at risk of becoming homeless. There is “another” Europe emerging as austerity impacts on thousands. Although the trend exists throughout Europe, the UK’s record is one of the worst.

Housing is a “right”, not a “reward”

A report [pdf] by the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless (FEANTSA) examined rising housing costs for the poorest people in society. It placed the UK second to last. FEANTSA director Freek Spinnewijn said [pdf, p4]:

Housing exclusion and homelessness have taken dramatic proportions in the UK. For almost all indicators the UK scores bad in a European perspective and the situation has often worsened over the last few years. Especially worrying are the massive increase of rough sleepers (137% increase since 2010) and homeless people in temporary accommodation (73% increase since 2011). The situation of young people on the housing market is also becoming hopeless.

Since 2010, there has been a 70% increase [pdf, p1] in the number of households spending more than 40% of their income on housing. As The Guardian reported:

The cost of a home for the lowest earners has risen faster in Britain than anywhere in western Europe… Housing costs for people who earn about £16,000 a year increased by 45% between 2010 and 2016.

The report also established [pdf] that, in the UK:

  • Between 2011 and 2017, the number of households living in temporary accommodation increased by 60%.
  • In March 2017, 77,240 households were in temporary accommodation. This included 120,540 children – a 73% rise since 2011.
  • 88,410 households applied for homeless assistance in 2016-2017.
  • 8.7% of poor households were in rent or mortgage arrears in 2016.
  • In general, non-British nationals face worse housing conditions and are 2.6 times more likely to be impacted than British nationals.

FEANTSA project officer Chloé Serme-Morin told The Canary:

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

We need to shift the thinking about housing – it should be seen as a right, and not as a reward. Long-term housing is a prerequisite for well-being, recovery and social integration. It is a means – and not an end – to the protection of all social rights and personal development of an individual.

‘Another’ Europe

Across Europe, the study revealed that:

over 24 million households… are overburdened by housing costs, nearly 37 million households live in overcrowded conditions and nearly 34 million live in damp conditions.

The report also found [pdf] “another” Europe is growing fast:

a Europe not merely ignored but also misunderstood, not just despised but also forgotten – a Europe of the homeless. Children now make up the largest group of people in emergency shelters. Women, young adults, people with a migration background and the working poor are also increasingly numerous among the homeless population.


This study states that, without significant change, the homeless crisis in the UK will continue. Since 2010, the number of people sleeping rough in the UK has risen 169%. According to government estimates [pdf, p3], there are 4,751 rough sleepers in the UK. Homeless charities said even this rise failed to reflect actual levels of rough sleeping.

As poverty increases, and rents continue to rise, homelessness increases. Spinnewijn said:

On average in the UK, poor households spend 47.4% of their disposable income on housing (spending more than 40% of one’s income on housing is known as housing cost overburden and is generally regarded as the benchmark above which general welfare and standard of living is threatened).

Findings like this suggest that statutory homelessness will continue to rise. As reported in The Guardian, the FEANTSA report:

concludes that in England the main cause of statutory homelessness is the termination of private rental contracts, when people cannot afford to find another home.

Chronic lack of affordable housing

The report also identifies [pdf] a “chronic” lack of affordable housing in the England.

  • Between 2010 and 2016, private rents increased by 24% in London. This was eight times the increase in average incomes.
  • The increase in private rents in most of England is three times that of average incomes.
  • There’s been an 80% increase in private rental housing alongside a 32% reduction in social rented housing owned by local authorities.

In addition to a rise in statutory homelessness, it’s likely that this lack of housing will push many more people into the soaring numbers of hidden homelessness.

“Violation of human rights”

FEANTSA [pdf, p9] states that, according to the UN, it is a government’s responsibility to “design and implement policies, laws and strategies to prevent and remedy homelessness”. And:

Failure to do so reflects that homelessness has neither been recognised nor addressed as a violation of human rights.

Get Involved!

– Join The Canary, so we can keep holding the powerful to account.

Featured images via Andy Beecroft – Wikimedia / Ed Yourdon – Wikimedia

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed