The Hotels of Last Resort
John Waite investigates why increasing numbers of homeless families are being housed in bed and breakfast hotels, sometimes for months at a time. The law states families should be placed in properly equipped temporary accommodation, but over the last year the number of families staying in B&Bs for over 6 weeks has more than doubled. Councils blame the rise in homelessness on the government's reform of housing benefit. A new cap on the amount of housing benefit that the State will pay has reduced the number of properties which poor families can afford and their local authorities have started looking beyond their boundaries, sometimes in completely different parts of the country, to fulfil their legal obligations to the homeless. The consequences are felt particularly acutely in relatively cheap outer London boroughs such as Barking and Dagenham and Croydon. There, competition from inner London authorities for suitable private rented accommodation has driven up rents and landlords prefer to rent their properties to students or working families. One local authority housing officer called it a "perfect storm." For its part, the Government says the payment of housing costs on behalf of tenants, direct to landlords was out of control and had to be tackled in an era of austerity.