Improving Access to Housing for Single People in England (2017)

Moving On is a report produced by Crisis studying the scale of single homelessness in England and the barriers single homeless people face accessing social housing. This study has been produced to inform a wider programme of work being carried out by Crisis to improve the availability of homes that single homeless people can afford in both the social and private rented sectors.

Key Findings

  • The number of single people who experience homelessness in England each year is around 200,000, with a minimum estimate of 120,000 and a maximum of 345,000.
  • The average number of single people experiencing some form of homelessness on any one night is estimated to be 77,000 – with a low estimate of 50,000 and a high estimate of 110,000.
  • Around two-thirds of single homeless people have support needs that mean their immediate destination should be some form of housing with tailored support such as supported housing or a Housing First solution. The rest have no acute support needs and the primary barrier to ending their homelessness is housing.
  • 75,000 single people with low or no support needs experience homelessness each year, with a minimum estimate of 40,000 and a maximum estimate of 140,000.
  • The average number of single people with low or no support needs who are homeless on any one night is 26,000, with a low estimate of 17,000 and a high estimate of 38,000.
  • Social lettings to single homeless people in England fell from 19,000 a year in 2007-8 to 13,000 in 2015-16. The proportion of new lettings to single homeless people relative to the number of new lettings overall has fallen disproportionately, from 12% to 8% of all new lettings over the same period.
  • This drop is due to changes in policy on the allocation of social housing, alongside problems caused by the reducing affordability of social housing, restrictions on housing benefit entitlement, and housing providers’ response to these.
    • Restrictions on social housing eligibility and allocations. Councils are encouraged by national guidance to restrict access to social housing to those with a local connection, and some councils and housing providers are using powers granted by the Localism Act (2011) to exclude applicants with a history of rent arrears, antisocial behaviour or criminal convictions.
    • Restrictions related to household income and affordability. The use of affordability and other financial eligibility criteria by some housing providers has the effect of screening out those on the lowest incomes. At times social housing providers have little choice; the impact of restrictions on housing benefit eligibility can mean that in parts of the country low income households are literally unable to pay their rent.


  1. National government must end the use of blanket housing register exclusions that shut out people in housing need.
  2. National government must ensure there is a supply of mainstream housing that single homeless people can afford.
  3. City regions and local authorities, working with social housing providers, should:
  4. monitor and report publicly on the flow of social housing lettings to single homeless people;
  5. review the impact of social housing eligibility restrictions and restrictions related to affordability on the flow of lettings to homeless people.

Rowe, S. and Wagstaff, T. (2017) Moving on: Improving access to housing for single homeless people in England. Crisis: London