The Homelessness Monitor: England 2022

The Homelessness Monitor: England 2022, published by Crisis, is the latest report in a longitudinal study providing independent analysis of the homelessness impacts of recent economic and policy developments in England. This tenth annual report by Heriot-Watt University, updates our account of how homelessness stands in England in 2021, or as close to 2021 as data availability allows. It also highlights emerging trends and forecasts some of the likely future changes, identifying the developments likely to have the most significant impacts on homelessness.

Key findings

  • 282,000 single people, couples and families were judged as homeless or threatened with homelessness by local authorities in 2020/21, an 8% fall on 2019/20 levels. This reduction resulted from a 20% drop in the numbers ‘threatened with homelessness’, with numbers assessed as actually homeless up by 7%. Applications involving family households fell by 22% in 2020/21, whereas single adult household applications rose by 3%. 
  • Changes in the profile of applicants reflected pandemic related homelessness drivers, including evictions protections disproportionately protecting families, and the intensification of pressures within the home putting those in informal sofa-surfing arrangements and experiencing domestic abuse at greater risk.
  • Total temporary accommodation placements continued to increase (up by 4% in 2020/21), and Bed and Breakfast hotel placements rose very significantly (by 37%). Some of this increase reflects actions under the Everyone In programme, though TA placements were already on an upward trajectory before the pandemic. Related to this, most local authority survey respondents (78%) also reported that access to private rented sector accommodation became more difficult during 2020/21, with 57% identifying access to the social rented sector as becoming more challenging also.
  • While Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 provisions give far better protection to single homeless households than the prior legal framework, some (mainly single) applicants still navigate the system without having secured settled accommodation. In 2020/21, this included around 22,000 homeless households deemed either not to be in priority need or to be intentionally homeless.
  • The Government target of ending rough sleeping by 2024 has been supported by substantially increased investment, including via the Rough Sleeping Initiative. Progress against this target has been radically accelerated by responses to the pandemic. But there is little confidence in the Government’s ability to achieve this objective without a clear definition of what ‘ending rough sleeping’ means in practice, an agreed approach to measurement, an updated strategy, a wider focus on rough sleeping prevention and move-on, and a willingness to address the clear tensions between the target and immigration policy.
  • COVID-19 inflicted considerable damage on the economy during 2020. 2021 saw some bounce back, but considerable uncertainty remains regarding when and how the economy will recover following the pandemic shock. Government plans to increase spending on public services, including health and local government, will depend on the performance of the economy and pandemic-related developments. Uncertain economic prospects and the deepening living cost crisis has led to mounting concerns there may be a surge in homelessness in 2022. This is borne out in the findings from a survey with local authorities in this report.
  • ‘Core homelessness’ in England – a concept which captures the most acute forms of homelessness – is estimated to have totalled 203,400 in 2020, down 5% on 2019 levels. This reduction is primarily due to the Everyone In initiative, with clear reductions in rough sleeping (down 33%) and sofa surfing (down 11%); but this is offset by an increase in forms of core homelessness associated with emergency accommodation brought on stream as part of the pandemic response.
  • It is predicted that the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic risks a substantial rise in core homelessness, with overall levels expected to sit one-third higher than 2019 levels on current trends. Levels of rough sleeping are also predicted to rise, despite the Government’s target of ending this form of homelessness by 2024.
  • These rises could be avoided. The largest rough sleeping reductions are forecast to be associated with a package of welfare benefit policies aimed at reducing destitution. Policies seeking to reduce evictions and scale up Housing First would also contribute to reducing rough sleeping on this timescale. In the longer term, the largest potential contributions to reduce core homelessness would come from raising the Local Housing Allowance, rehousing quotas for core homeless households, consistent large-scale application of Housing First accompanied by appropriate rehabilitation provision and a reduction of traditional hostel accommodation, and welfare benefit measures to reduce destitution.