The numbers of rough sleepers on the streets of Greater Manchester have noticeably reduced in the past few years, partly due to the actions of the mayoral “Bed Every Night” campaign to tackle rough sleeping, and local authorities providing emergency “Everyone In” measures to house the homeless during the pandemic.
This is certainly a welcome development, but many rough sleepers and other homeless households have been moved into temporary accommodation, and while a roof over your head is better than no roof at all, a previous report on some of these residences in Manchester described them as “slums” full of “squalor, danger and death.”
An increasing number of households across Greater Manchester are having to endure these insecure conditions for months – sometimes years. Figures gathered by The Meteor from government statistics show the rapid rise of temporary accommodation across the region over the last decade.
On 31 March 2010 there were 470 households living in temporary accommodation across Greater Manchester. In 2021 that figure had risen to 3,881, a huge 726% increase.
As can be seen from the graphic presenting the figures below Manchester dominates the region for the amount of temporary accommodation provided, making up 65% of the total for all the ten boroughs in Greater Manchester in 2021. On 31 March 2010 there were 273 households living in temporary accommodation in Manchester, in 2021 that figure had risen to 2,537, an even bigger 829% increase.
Meteor graphic: To view the boroughs clustered at the bottom clearly, deselect “GM total” and “Manchester” in the legend by clicking on them. Figures presented for each year are a snapshot count of the households in temporary accommodation on the 31 March, apart from 2019 where the count is taken from 30 June (*see end of article for further information). Source: Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government.*
The figures presented are a snapshot figure of the number of household’s in TA in one night of the year. Temporary accommodation, recorded in the official figures, is housing provided to homeless people by the council after it conducts an assessment of a household’s status and accepts a duty to house them under the obligations of the Homelessness reduction Act 2017. This is an interim step towards supporting them into stable long-term accommodation. Single people, couples and families can apply for TA when they find themselves homeless, whether it be from eviction, family break-up, domestic abuse, or leaving institutionalised care.
In a Meteor report last year on homelessness, councillor Luthfur Rahman OBE, who was then Manchester’s lead member on homelessness, said the “focus has been on rough sleepers but the impact on families in insecure accommodation is often underestimated.” Now deputy leader of the council, Rahman, when presented with these latest figures showing the rise of TA in Manchester, said:
“This is a complex issue driven by a variety of factors such as welfare changes, the rising cost of living and the impacts of austerity at the same time as a national housing crisis in terms of the lack of new social and affordable housing.
“Finding safe, appropriate and secure accommodation for the increasing numbers of individuals and families who come to us and need our help us is a huge challenge. There has been no let-up in demand and the continual pressure on the system is reflective of the government welfare changes which have affected those who are in a precarious financial situation at the best of times.”
The lack of social housing and its contributing effect to the housing crisis has been previously covered by The Meteor, when we reported that there had been a loss of 47,000 social homes across Greater Manchester between 1997 and 2019, a 16% drop in the total stock.
A big factor in this drop is the “Right to Buy” policy for council homes, allowing tenants to buy them with a big discount, has led to a huge dip in social housing stock due to lack of suitable replacements being built. Five thousand council homes across GM were sold under this policy in the six years up to 2018.
B&B’s an increasing component of temporary accommodation mix
Over the last two years, the number of social housing homes (either local authority or housing association owned) used as TA in Manchester has dropped by 55% from 87 in 2019 to 39 in 2021, (in 2006 that figure stood at 374). While social housing continues to decrease in the mix of housing offered in Manchester, the use of bed and breakfasts (B&B’s) has increased, with a 58 % increase from 195 in 2019 to 309 in 2021.
Meteor graphic: Manchester’s temporary accommodation split. A snapshot count on 31 March in 2018 and 2021, and on 30 June in 2019. To view the separate years, click the legend above where the year is stated. Source: Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government.
The increased use of B&B’s to house homeless families was raised by Manchester council’s director of homelessness Mohamed Hussein in July, who said that the city is “warehousing” some of its most vulnerable homeless people in accommodation with “no evidence” of whether it is helping them or not. Hussein added:
“Whilst having some families in B&B’s is not unusual in large authorities with such high demand, this is unusual and this isn’t what happens in most other places.
“We need to change this, putting children in B&B’s is not the answer. The detrimental effects of temporary accommodation in any case are bad.
“But with B&B’s you have no idea who’s next door, you don’t know what other local authority has placed who in the room opposite. We really need to end this as quickly as possible.”
Also recognising that more social housing was needed in the mix, Hussein outlined plans to update homelessness services in Manchester, starting with the use of B&B’s.
Over the course of a year the M.E.N. reported in July that more than a thousand children and their families are being housed in temporary accommodation B&B’s at a cost of £850k to the council. The increased costs to the council of providing temporary accommodation come after swingeing austerity driven cuts to the council’s budget, which over the last decade have resulted in a £419m reduction in funding a year from central government, and seen a £2.4m reduction in the Homelessness services budget for this year. A shortfall of £153m is predicted in Manchester’s budget over the next three years, mainly because of difficulties encountered due to Covid-19, and further cuts to public services are predicted.
Evictions, and demand outstripping supply
Evictions from rented properties are still the biggest cause of homelessness in Greater Manchester and across the UK. The controversial Section 21 “no-fault” evictions, where a landlord can evict a tenant without good reason, are still being used despite the government’s promise to end them in 2019.
An investigation by The Meteor and The Bureau of Investigative Journalism showed that in July and August of 2021, following the end of the eviction ban introduced during the pandemic, there were 71 repossession hearings in Manchester. The investigation gathered information from 34 of those cases, six of which were sought under Section 21 and 15 were sought under Section 8, a rent arrears notice served when a tenant is two months behind. The recommencement of possession hearings across the UK in 2021 saw a threefold increase in the numbers compared to the same period pre-pandemic.
Councillor Rahman explained that the council were putting a lot of resources into advice and prevention services to give tenants the best chance to remain in their accommodation when they were threatened with homelessness, by giving them the help and advice they needed to prevent them becoming homeless. He went on to say:
“At the moment, we rely on a mixture of providers to ensure we have temporary accommodation for people who need it and work hard to ensure that they are moved out of temporary accommodation and into settled accommodation as quickly as possible and we are currently undertaking a programme of transformation which is actively seeking to prevent homelessness and have fewer people in temporary accommodation for less time.
“The demand for housing across the city outstrips supply and the local market conditions where market rents far outstrip local housing allowance rates make this one of the most challenging areas in the north for people trying to escape homelessness.
“We are committed to building more social housing in Manchester and increasing the number of accessible and affordable homes for people who need them, and we will be relentless in our efforts to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place.”
Manchester council plans to build homes
Manchester council unveiled plans in September to build 200 homes, after not being directly involved in housebuilding since the 1980’s. The development will be built by a council owned company called This City, which aims to scale up to producing 500 homes per year by 2025, with the support of a private investor into the company, an investor which is still to be found.
Although these houses, to be built in Ancoats and Piccadily, are not technically “council houses” due to being owned by an arm’s length company, 54 of them will be let at an “accessible rent” under the Local Housing Allowance levels (meaning people dependent on social security payments could afford them) with the rest being affordable or market rent. Critics of the scheme have questioned the security of tenancy offered in these properties and whether they will be genuinely accessible to those most in need.
The scale of “accessible” or “affordable” rate rented housing currently planned to be built in Manchester doesn’t appear enough to deal with the rising rates of households in temporary accommodation being observed. And these official figures may well be an underestimate of the total number in temporary accommodation, as not all those offered temporary accommodation are included in the official figures. During the initial assessment of whether the council owes a duty to house a household the council may find it doesn’t owe a duty, but that household may still secure a type of “unsupported” temporary accommodation, which is also referred to as “emergency” or “interim” accommodation, which does not appear in the official figures.
The grim conditions present in these “unsupported” bed and breakfasts and private guest houses used to house homeless people, were reported on by the Manchester Evening News in 2018 as the hidden “Manchester slums” with living conditions described as “stomach-churning”. Properties on Gransmoor Avenue in Higher Openshaw were identified as well as properties in Ardwick. The residents of some of the properties, who were mainly single men, spoke of living in these conditions for years, where drug dealing, drug abuse and overdoses were rife, with no help from drug services on offer.
More sweeping change needed
The charity Justlife, which supports people in Manchester living in temporary accommodation, identified 500 people (in 2018) who were living in unsupported temporary accommodation in the city, who they believed were not registered in the official statistics.
Christa Mciver is the head of research, policy and communications at Justlife, which was set up in Openshaw in 2011 to help the many residents of East Manchester struggling with poor temporary accommodation. Reacting to the latest figures on the increase of TA, Mciver said:
“This is driven by a complex set of systemic problems that are often beyond the control of the local authority alone: rising house prices, local housing allowance that doesn’t cover the full rent for low-income households and an increase in poverty, to name a few.
“We recognise that in the face of these complex challenges, local authorities are working hard to reduce the use of the worst forms of temporary accommodation. However, this is increasingly difficult with the growing pressure of people needing to be housed.
“This can sometimes lead to a situation where local authorities feel indebted to accommodation providers and are prepared to use properties that aren’t suitable for fear of losing the housing option, rather than use their ‘buying power’ to challenge landlords to improve standards.”
Mciver says one of the biggest problems TA residents face is a lack of communication between the residents and those placing them in accommodation, which leads to feeling of isolation and insecurity as they are unsure of how long their duration of stay may be, and what their rights are regarding acquiring secure accommodation. One solution suggested by Mcviver, for less complex cases of homelessness requiring more intensive support, would be the distribution of residents packs, with local information on where support is available, when they move in. For real change to occur in the lives of people living in unsuitable TA Mciver says:
“Ultimately, however, more sweeping change cannot happen unless national government begins to see temporary accommodation as a national issue, not just an issue for local authorities to address.
“There is not nearly enough appropriate and truly affordable housing for the rising number of those living in temporary accommodation, not only in GM but across the country. It’s this lack of housing that leaves people stuck in temporary accommodation that is all too often unsuitable, insecure, and far away from everything they know.”
Housing market failure
Salford City mayor Paul Dennett, is also the GMCA deputy mayor and lead for Housing, Homelessness and Infrastructure. He has been a key figure in implementing the mayoral Bed Every Night campaign which has seen rough sleeping figures in Greater Manchester drop by two thirds since 2017 to the latest count of 89, which Dennett says is still “far too many, and we will not stop until we have eradicated the need for rough sleeping in our city-region.”
A social housing tenant himself, Dennett launched the council owned housing company Derive in 2019, which announced the largest council built housing scheme for over 50 years in Salford. The Derive development plans to build 417 new council and community owned homes in Salford, with the potential for 3,000 more. When asked to address the rise in TA across GM, Dennett said:
“To be frank, the huge increase in the number of people and households requiring temporary and emergency accommodation is as a result of the long-term failure of our housing market to provide the types and tenures of homes needed to adequately house the UK’s population.
“In Greater Manchester we’ve set out a longer-term vision in our Homelessness Prevention Strategy to tackle the wider determinants of homelessness and rough sleeping, and have plans to deliver at least 50,000 good, genuinely affordable homes by 2037. This strategy is about working to prevent homelessness in a number of ways, and we stand ready to work together with national government to make this possible.
“My own belief is that significant state intervention will be required to fix the failure in our housing market, and that a huge task ahead of us is increasing the capacity of councils and housing associations to build homes at social rents, which meets the needs of individuals and households who are currently dependent on temporary and emergency accommodation to ensure they have a roof of their heads, whilst also meeting the needs of individuals and households stuck on housing waiting lists across the city-region.
“Indeed, a recent report from the House of Lords Built Environment Committee suggested that Government should be spending more on social housing to reduce the benefit bill. Within the Greater Manchester plan for 50,000 affordable homes is a commitment for 30,000 net zero carbon homes at social rents, which is still not enough to solve the current crisis we face, but a realistic target we believe we can achieve between now and 2037.
“As a society, we need to move away from the idea of simply seeing homes as assets or tradable commodities towards an understanding that homes play a vital role in the creation and sustainment of sustainable places where people actually live.”
With the Universal Credit cut of £20 a week imposed in October, raised National Insurance contributions, and rocketing fuel bills, more people in Greater Manchester will be struggling to pay their rent and keep the bailiffs from the door, adding to the strain on temporary accommodation and homelessness services in the region, which have been starved by a decade of austerity.
To find out more about Justlife’s work supporting homeless people – click here.
Manchester city council’s advice page for those facing homelessness – click here.
For information on the Greater Manchester’s Mayor’s Charity for tackling homelessness – click here.
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Featured image: Conrad Bower (Gransmoor Avenue)
*The snapshot count of total TA figures across Greater Manchester for 2019 was taken from the 30 June due to the figures for the 31 March not being available for that year from the DHULC and MHCLG. In 2019 the figure for TA in Wigan is not recorded, therefore the “GM total” figure for that year is minus the TA number from Wigan.
To maintain consistency in the data, in order to compare like with like, data from the 31 of March was used (where possible). A later data set has been released for 30 June 2021, which shows total TA across GM has risen to 4018, continuing the increasing trend presented in this article.