Westminster Hall Debate, Youth Homelessness, 1 May 2024

Over recent decades, construction of new homes has failed to keep pace with population growth and social changes. At the same time, there are currently not enough affordable homes to meet current demand with more than 1.32 million households on council waiting lists in England and over 112,660 households living in temporary accommodation.

About the LGA

  • The Local Government Association (LGA) is the national voice of local government. We are a politically led, cross party membership organisation, representing councils from England and Wales.
  • Our role is to support, promote and improve local government, and raise national awareness of the work of councils. Our ultimate ambition is to support councils to deliver local solutions to national problems.

Key messages

  • Homelessness and the cost of temporary accommodation rank highly amongst councils’ primary concerns.
  • The root causes of rough sleeping are complex. One key driver is supply pressures, especially the lack of social homes as well as other types of housing, particularly one-bedroom homes, supported housing, Housing First and care placements. This increases housing pressures and leads to increases in rough sleeping. There are also increasing demand pressures rising from Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions, the rising cost of living and pressure from asylum and resettlement schemes amongst other pressures.
  • Over recent decades, construction of new homes has failed to keep pace with population growth and social changes. At the same time, there are currently not enough affordable homes to meet current demand with more than 1.32 million households on council waiting lists in England and over 112,660 households living in temporary accommodation.
  • We are calling on Government to do more to rapidly build more genuinely affordable homes to help families struggling to meet housing costs, provide homes to rent, reduce homelessness and tackle the housing waiting lists many councils have. We are calling for the Government to go further and faster in order for councils to be able to properly resume their historic role as a major builder of affordable homes by implementing a six-point plan for social housing.
  • This housing shortage has seen rents and property prices rise significantly faster than incomes, acutely impacting the lowest income and vulnerable families and individuals. Recent Government measures to ensure registered providers of social housing in England and Northern Ireland are not liable for Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) when purchasing property with a public subsidy, and that public bodies will be exempted from the 15 per cent anti-avoidance rate of SDLT, are positive steps in the right direction to boosting the supply of social housing by reducing the costs for registered providers of social housing to acquire new properties.
  • At a time of acute housing shortages, the LGA is calling for major reforms to the Right to Buy scheme by giving councils control over how and when monies raised through the scheme should be used on the development, delivery or acquisition of new homes, power to protect a council’s financial investment in both existing and new social housing stock from a loss-making transaction, and flexibility for councils to shape the scheme locally so it works best for their local area, housing market and people.
  • Councils spent £1.74 billion on temporary accommodation in 2022-23 alone. With the number of Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions increasing, as well as the cost of living continuing to rise, councils are facing a national homelessness crisis. These pressures, combined with depleting social housing stock and an unaffordable private rented sector, are a perfect storm which is driving homelessness and disadvantage.
  • We believe that everyone deserves a safe, decent, efficient, and affordable place to live. The LGA is committed to improving housing conditions for all residents and has recently responded to the Government Consultation on Awaab’s Law, which will require landlords to investigate and fix reported health hazards within specified timeframes.
  • Poor mental health can make it difficult for people to manage housing issues and conversely problems with housing, including homelessness, can worsen people’s mental people’s mental health outcomes. Councils work closely with local housing and mental health service providers to put in place measures to prevent mental health problems arising and deliver joined up support to those experiencing mental health difficulties.


Councils take a multi-faceted approach to tackling the root causes of rough sleeping which include:

  • The building of social homes despite the huge income and expenditure pressures. This includes utilising the Affordable Homes Programme to increase the supply of social rented homes, which will see an increase in the next 3 to 5 years, though the programme is not large enough to plug housing shortages.
  • Tenancy sustainment through housing support services is key to many councils’ approaches and includes working better and smarter with private sector landlords and agents, with a developing and responsive service offer.
  • Working with households at risk of homelessness at an earlier stage to prevent homelessness and to address other issues like debt and barriers to employment which reduce resilience against a cost of living and a housing crisis.
  • Providing effective resettlement and tenancy sustainment services to homeless households placed in the private rented sector, which is especially important given the complexity of the current asylum and resettlement schemes in the UK.
  • Working creatively with partners inside and outside the local authority including co-location, joint commissioning and joint strategic planning. Many councils work with other authorities to maximise the market power of councils to procure accommodation at a reasonable price. Councils also work with a variety of service providers, including housing, drug and alcohol, to develop holistic support offers to those who may become street homeless.

Addressing the causes of youth homelessness:

There are well recorded links between mental health, housing, and homelessness. Councils have a range of statutory duties related to housing and homelessness, and in turn, provide housing support for those experiencing mental illness. The quality of the home can also have an impact on mental wellness, and councils have a role to play through their housing, health and safety regulations and their planning duties, in terms of issues such as space requirements and noise abatement.

The 2016 Mental Health Taskforce report notes that: ‘Stable housing is a factor contributing to someone being able to maintain good mental health and important … for their recovery if they have developed a mental health problem. Common mental health problems are over twice as high among people who are homeless compared with the general population, and psychosis is up to 15 times as high. Children living in poor housing have increased chances of experiencing stress, anxiety and depression’.

There are many examples of council good practice in relation to mental health and homelessness, for example Camden has designated homeless pathway workers co-located with mental health and offender services to assist single people threatened with homelessness on institutional discharge.

Children and young people

It is crucial we focus on prevention and intervention at an early stage, particularly for children and young people. By doing this we will help prevent poor mental health blighting peoples’ lives and improve the well-being of our communities. The role of children’s centres, perinatal services and early years settings in supporting parents and professionals to understand young children’s emotional development and implement proven strategies for promoting ongoing good mental health are all integral. As is working with schools to embed positive ways of promoting mental health within the curriculum. Normalising periods of emotional difficulty for children and young people, maximising the opportunities for engaging in positive activities and attending to the link between physical and mental health all formed important elements in promoting good mental health.

To address the crisis in mental health and emotional wellbeing for our children and young people, we need to build on the progress made so far and develop a systematic approach which prioritises and funds early intervention and brings together a partnership approach, with clear accountability across local partners.

Of those undergoing treatment, 59 per cent said they had a mental health treatment need. Over half of new starters in all substance groups needed mental health treatment.

Providing young people with a safe place to go, such as youth centres, or ensuring there is a universal or detached youth work offer can work towards reducing anti-social behaviour. Recent Government funding in this space is welcome, and a continued focus on preventative yet supportive activities would ensure better outcomes for children than implementing punitive measures. Key case studies include:

  • Blackpool: Diversion using youth-led sports activities: Collaborative working between the police, youth justice service and community safety team resulted in the Violence Reduction Unit funding a collaboration between the Leisure Service and the Boys and Girls club to deliver two sessions of boxing and fitness training each week – an early evening session for 8- to 13-year-olds and a later one for young people aged 14 and older.
  • Essex, Thurrock and Southend ‘Power Project’: The POWER (Promoting Opportunities with Emotional Resilience) Project supports children and young people aged 8 to 13 years who are known to the police for a variety of reasons. For example, ASB, offences below court thresholds or frequently by being involved in incidents of domestic violence or as a victim of a crime.

Further information is available in the LGA commissioned research on supporting the youngest children in the justice system.

Challenges for care leavers

While many care leavers go on to live happy and successful lives, as a group they are more likely than their peers to experience poorer outcomes. The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care (May 2022) concluded that ‘the disadvantage faced by our care experienced community should be the civil rights issue of our time.’ It is estimated that:

  • 26 per cent of the homeless population have care experience
  • 24 per cent of the prison population in England have spent time in care
  • 38 per cent of 19-21 year old care leavers are not in education, employment or training (NEET) compared to 12 per cent of all other young people in the same age group

A survey by the National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum in 2022 found that 83 per cent of care experienced young people said they were struggling to afford food some or all of the time, while 31 per cent said they were at risk of homelessness.

A lack of access to safe, affordable housing is consistently one of the top issues that care leavers raise. Having a stable home where they feel safe and happy is key to giving care leavers the best start to their adult life. It also provides the foundation for success in other areas of their life, such as education, training and employment.

Asks for government to prevent homelessness:

It is crucial that all departments play a positive and collaborative role in the prevention of homelessness and rough sleeping, and that it is not just perceived as the responsibility of DLUHC and local housing authorities. Collaboration to achieve prevention requires joint ambition, but it also needs common approaches to information, protocols, partnership, case management, training, monitoring, reviews and commissioning; maximising the value from collective investments. We therefore make a number of recommendations for requiring all departments to consider their role in preventing homelessness and rough sleeping, to set out what action they will take, and to monitor the success of this action. All Government departments should:

  1. commit to ending homelessness and rough sleeping by developing a joint statement which details the set of departmental actions to take, this could include a commitment that no-one becomes homeless directly from leaving their services
  2. review, the need to strengthen the legislative ‘duty to refer’ on public authorities into a ‘duty to cooperate’ in the prevention of homelessness and rough sleeping, and extending it to a wider group of public authorities
  3. explicitly acknowledge the Departmental responsibilities in delivering the Homelessness Reduction Act, by developing and publishing a Departmental Implementation Plan that establishes a ‘commitment to cooperate’ in the prevention of homelessness, beyond the ‘duty to refer’.
  4. determine definition of preventing homelessness and rough sleeping for each Department. Identify and define key success factors, put in place data collection and usage through which to monitor the impact of actions, report annually on progress towards ending homelessness and rough sleeping and produce action plans to continue this progress
  5. lead culture change within the Department and its agencies, by providing clear and detailed guidance and training for all service managers, commissioners and staff in delivering the implementation plan through effective multi-agency working locally.
  6. adopt default commitment to route all additional funding targeted at supporting homelessness and rough sleeping prevention through Local Homelessness Strategies, either directly or as part of co-commissioning models. A case would have to be made for when adopting a different approach
  7. engage with mechanisms that enable those with lived experience to contribute to co-design services.

Supported Housing

Supported Housing will continue to play an important role in meeting the housing needs of individuals with care and support needs. The new Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Act will ensure local authorities will have a better understanding of the supported housing needs and provision in their area through the new requirement for Local Supported Housing Strategies. It will also give them increased powers to tackle poor providers. The Act, however, does not address the structural issues in the sector which have arisen from non-commissioned services flooding the market to fill gaps left by a reduction in funding for crucial housing support.

According to new National Housing Federation research, if funding mechanisms for supported housing collapse or are withdrawn due to an increasingly challenging and financially insecure landscape, the impact on rough sleeping, demand for residential care, psychiatric in-patient and prison places would be wholly unmanageable, especially as these services are already over-stretched.

Government should ring-fence and increase long-term revenue funding for housing-related support to ensure spending at least matches the £1.6 billion per year allocated to local authorities in England in 2010. This will unlock the development of new supported housing schemes needed to meet growing needs and reduce spending on residential care.

Government should also reinstate the £300 million Housing Transformation Fund which was reneged on as part of the adult social care reforms. The fund would have enabled councils to increase the supply of supported and retirement housing and better integrate health, housing and care with housing.

Six-point plan for social housing

The LGA is calling for the Government to go further and faster in order for councils to be able to properly resume their historic role as a major builder of affordable homes by implementing a six-point plan for social housing.

  1. Roll-out five-year local housing deals to all areas of the country that want them by 2025 – combining funding from multiple national housing programmes into a single pot. This will provide the funding, flexibility, certainty and confidence to stimulate housing supply, and will remove national restrictions which stymie innovation and delivery.
  2. Government support to set up a new national council housebuilding delivery taskforce, bringing together a team of experts to provide additional capacity and improvement support for housing delivery teams within councils and their partners.
  3. Continued access to preferential borrowing rates through the Public Works Loans Board (PWLB), to support the delivery of social housing and local authorities borrowing for Housing Revenue Accounts.
  4. Further reform to Right to Buy which includes allowing councils to retain 100 per cent of receipts on a permanent basis; flexibility to combine Right to Buy receipts with other government grants; the ability to set the size of discounts locally; and the ability to recycle a greater proportion of receipts into building replacement homes paying off housing debt.
  5. Review and increase where needed the grant levels per home through the Affordable Homes Programme, as inflationary pressures have caused the cost of building new homes to rise, leaving councils needing grant funding to fund a larger proportion of a new build homes than before.
  6. Certainty on future rents, to enable councils to invest. Government must commit to a minimum 10-year rent deal for council landlords to allow a longer period of annual rent increases and long-term certainty.

Right to Buy

At a time of acute housing shortages, where 1.32 million people are on council housing waiting lists and councils are spending £1.74 billion annually on temporary accommodation, the right to buy can no longer be allowed to exist in its current form as it is culminating in the net loss of our much-needed social housing stock year on year. The LGA is calling for major reforms to the Right to Buy scheme by giving councils:

  • Control over how and when monies raised through the scheme should be used on the development, delivery or acquisition of new homes.
  • Power to protect a council’s financial investment in both existing and new social housing stock from a loss-making transaction.
  • Flexibility for councils to shape the scheme locally so it works best for their local area, housing market and people.

The latest figures show that, for the last financial year, 10,896 homes were sold through RTB and only 3,447 have been replaced, resulting in a net loss of 7,449 social homes in 2022/23.

Whilst Right to Buy can and has delivered home ownership for many, the current form does not work for many more of those in need of social housing who are unable to access secure and safe social housing or the local authorities seeking to support them. From its introduction in 1980 to 31 March 2023, 2,017,590 homes have been sold through the right to buy, with 118,039 of those sold between 2012/13 and 2022/23. During the period 2022/23, 10,896 were sold with only 3,447 replacements funded from receipts.

The LGA said the main concern for councils is that rising discounts, alongside other measures that restrict councils use of Right to Buy receipts, mean that one household’s home ownership is increasingly being prioritised over another’s access to secure, safe, social housing.

The LGA welcomed the Government’s plans to increase the cap from 40 per cent to 50 per cent on the percentage of the cost of a replacement home that can be funded from Right to Buy receipts. However, the Spring Budget missed a key opportunity to allow councils to permanently retain 100 per cent of sales receipts. Increasing the cap will help to make some housing schemes viable that would not otherwise be, however, the LGA has argued that this cap should be removed entirely. The impact of the cap increase in supporting the delivery of replacement homes will also be limited. The two-year retention period announced in 2023 only covers the two financial years 2022/23 and 2023-24.

Budgetary asks

The vast majority of social housing lettings go to UK nationals and many councils already have policies relating to anti-social behaviour, criminal behaviour, rent arrears and income thresholds in their allocation policies. The LGA has raised concerns that restricting eligibility criteria for social housing and extending qualification periods could result in a rise in homelessness.

With 1.2 million households on council housing waiting lists and record numbers in temporary accommodation, this is symptomatic of our wider housing shortage. We called on the Government to use the Budget to grant councils the flexibilities needed to resume their historic role as a major builder of affordable homes.

Councils share the collective national ambition to tackle local housing challenges and create great places for current and future generations. Councils need a long-term national commitment to support a council house building renaissance and improvements in existing stock. Long-term certainty on powers and funding could help councils scale up to deliver an ambitious build programme of 100,000 high-quality, climate-friendly social homes a year. It would also improve the public finances by £24.5 billion over 30 years, including a reduction in the housing benefit bill and temporary accommodation costs. In Quarter 2 of 2023, provisional statistics showed that local authorities started 1,750 new dwellings, the highest rate since 1990.

Additional support from government would allow councils to scale-up further. An expansion of council housebuilding would provide a counter-cyclical boost to housing supply; offer a pathway out of expensive and insecure private renting towards home ownership; reduce homelessness; tackle housing waiting lists and support the growth of green skills and net zero supply chains.

Temporary accommodation

We are disappointed that the Budget provided no support to address the spiralling cost of temporary accommodation. Councils are spending more than £1.74 billion supporting 109,000 households in temporary accommodation, both the highest figures since records began. The restoration of Local Housing Allowance rates to the 30th percentile of market rents from April 2024, announced at Autumn Statement 2023, is a welcome step. However, it is disappointing that the Government has not taken the opportunity to uprate the subsidy for claims in respect of people living in temporary accommodation which remains capped at 90 per cent of January 2011 rates.

The severe shortage of social housing means councils are forced to pay to house people in private temporary accommodation, including hotels and B&Bs while they wait for a permanent home.

Building more genuinely affordable homes remains the best way to help families struggling to meet housing costs, provide homes to rent, reduce homelessness and tackle council housing waiting lists in the long term.

The Renters Reform Bill

The ending of a private rented tenancy is the most common reason for a household being at risk of homelessness. In the first quarter of 2023, 32 per cent more households presented to councils at risk of homelessness after being served with a Section 21 notice, compared to the last quarter of 2019 – highlighting that the recent increase in section 21 notices is more than just a rebound from the eviction ban.

We support the end to Section 21 evictions and assured shorthold tenancies, which will help to give PRS tenants greater security and stability in their home and reduce the number of people facing homelessness due to ‘no-fault’ evictions or a tenancy ending.

Because Section 21 is widely used due to it being a guaranteed and mandatory “no-fault” eviction, it is currently impossible to tell from the homelessness statistics why tenancies have ended. An additional benefit of removing Section 21, is that it will give councils and central government more accurate information on why tenancies are ending, to help improve support.

We are very concerned by delays to the implementation of the abolition of Section 21 evictions in the Renters Reform Bill. The Bill, as amended in April 2024, allows for a potentially indefinite delay to the abolition while the Government reforms the County Court system to reduce backlogs. No firm commitment has been made to funding, timeline or the nature of these reforms.

Family first culture

In 2022 Isos Partnership carried out a further study for the LGA considering structural change in children’s social care. This emphasised that in any change programme, leadership and vision are key. It will be important for the DfE to clearly articulate its vision for a “family first” culture, including through the National Framework, and to ensure that local leaders have the flexibility to translate this into a vision that makes sense in place. Communication, engagement and co-production are also important building blocks of culture.

These are lessons that should be considered by both central and local government in a holistic way; for example, DfE and children’s social care can work towards a family first culture, however this must also be supported by local and national approaches to issues such as housing and welfare that have a significant impact on families’ ability to parent.

Poor housing can lead to psychological distress, respiratory problems and impact on development. Local partners should come together to tackle the social determinants of children and young people’s mental health, including poverty and inequality, and consider the role of other local departments including housing, transport, sport and leisure services.


Elliot Gregory, Public Affairs and Campaigns Advisor

Email: [email protected]