England cannot solve its single homeless crisis and banning no fault evictions is dangerous madness

English social landlords rehouse 13,000 single homeless households each year but England has 150,000 single homeless people each year requiring rehousing.  This pitiful 13,000 figure is THE critical fact necessary to comprehend English homelessness as it reveals the reality and context. A supply of 13,000 to meet a demand of 150,000 per year!

Rehousing a rough sleeper, someone from a homeless hostel or the one-third of women at domestic abuse refuges who are single and broadly comprise the 150,000 yearly single homeless household demand figure for the one-bedded property they qualify for.  Social landlords provide just 13,000 per year and this figure has been consistent for many years.

These facts – 13,000 SRS supply versus 150,000 demand – reveal why England can never solve or end or even reduce homelessness and that so-called social landlords are a bit part player.  The private landlord rehouses and thus provides the escape from homelessness for over 90% of the single homeless households England creates each year. 

In 2017 Crisis the homeless organisation published its Moving On report and said this: –

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, from 12% to 8% of all new lettings over the same period.

moving_on_2017.pdf (crisis.org.uk)

The 13,000 per year rehoused by social landlords that Crisis quote from official housing data figures is a consistent one since 2015/16 and which strongly suggests a near finite capacity has been reached in the social rented sector of one-bed properties that become available each year and it reflects the unpalatable truth that social landlords never built one-bed properties for those of working age in the post war period. What it means is…

England is almost entirely dependent upon the private rented sector and landlords when it comes to escaping single homelessness and this is a major systemic problem and a regrettable reality.

The relevance of the overwhelming role that the private rented sector (PRS) has regarding rehousing single homeless households is seen starkly in the government proposal to outlaw section 21 no fault evictions. 

Currently there is huge support from all and sundry for the banning of section 21 the so-called no fault evictions especially in the private rented sector though starter tenancies which form the majority of new housing association lets can be ended the same way.  This policy is as superficial as it gets and a dangerous madness. No fault evictions are, without doubt, an abomination yet banning them would see single homeless numbers increase massively and inevitably and why I opened this with the pitiful 13,000 single homeless households the SRS rehouses each year.  We have to start from fact not moral indignation.

Banning NFE will see private landlords take flight from rehousing single homeless persons in the first place as it gives them a massive increase in risk and cost yet this increase in risk and cost is not met with an increase in reward in higher rental income.  Every industry has a commercial maxim and basis of increased risk means increased reward and the principle is most readily seen in insurance policies. Now government backed by the opposition and homeless lobbies such as Shelter, Crisis and others are strongly in support of banning NFE.

Banning NFE means it takes the landlord much longer to evict and is much more costly to evict whether for arrears or anti social behaviour or damage grounds.  EVERY new private tenant thus becomes an increased cost risk to all landlords so all landlords will be very much more circumspect over whom they rehouse.  The single homeless cohorts are, correctly, perceived as a high risk group to rehouse so the PRS will undoubtedly and inevitably rehouse fewer single homeless persons due to the increased risk with no additional reward.  Since the policy was first proposed in April 2019 there is strong as yet anecdotal evidence that private landlords are taking flight.

Go back to the numerical facts that the SRS rehouse 13,000 single homeless of the 150,000 demand and we see the PRS now rehouses 137,000 per year and 10 single homeless persons for every 1 that the SRS rehouses. 

Now imagine if banning NFE sees a tiny 10% flight by private landlords in England and it means the PRS will rehouse 13,700 fewer single homeless persons each year for whom the only alternative rehousing is the SRS who will need to increase the current 13,000 rehoused each year by a further 13,700!!  In short just a meagre 10% private landlord flight from rehousing the newly much more risky single homeless households will mean the social landlord has to more than double the number of single homeless persons they rehouse.

Indelicately, this is the shit hitting the fan and inevitable impact of banning section 21 no fault evictions as proposed and strongly supported by all and sundry.

The Conservative government, the Labour Party and all other opposition, Shelter, Crisis, Homeless Link, Generation Rent, CHI, CIH, NHF, JRF, IFS and just about every actor on the homeless stage support the incredibly superficial policy proposal to outlaw and ban what we term the no fault eviction.  It is not counter-intuitive or conceit or arrogance on my part to say that they all have it wrong; it is simple commonsense and inevitable impact.

When homeless hostels see PRS landlords not take their residents then it means no rough sleeper or other single homeless person can get into a hostel room as they are full.  When a woman flees domestic abuse and whether fleeing alone or with children, she will find domestic abuse refuges are also full and unable to accommodate as well.  These are obvious inevitable impacts all of which are adverse and they directly create more rough sleepers, more homelessness and more domestic abuse.

Private landlords and HA landlords who also use AST in starter tenancies (>70% of all new HA tenancies in 2019 official figures) will be acutely more risk averse to all tenants they rehouse due to the banning of NFE.  The policy will NOT just adversely impact on vulnerable homeless and domestic abuse cases but on all prospective tenants in general needs mainstream housing.  As the much greater risk is NOT met with increased reward then ALL landlords become much more risk averse on those they accommodate in the first place.

A few years ago the proposal to apply the private sector shared accommodation rate of housing benefit to the social rented sector raised alarm when proposed.  Severn Vale Housing Association the former council housing of Tewkesbury immediately and ahead of any policy being laid decided to ban all under 36 year olds from getting a social housing tenancy.  The so-called social landlords are just as risk averse as the private landlords and just as quick to change allocation policies is what this example reveals.

Single homeless households – with the exception of single women in refuges and who make up a third or more of all refuge residents – are seen as largely undeserving cohorts and the deserving / undeserving issue has plagued single homelessness for decades.  The fact that councils even in the 60 years of comparative subsidy aplenty until 2010 never built one-bedded properties for those of working age that now sees a pitifully low and near finite capacity of the SRS to rehouse just 10% of them is another factor of the undeserving perception that is common and always has been.

Banning NFE is a classic case of superficiality writ large and a classic case of throwing the baby out with the bath water.  The facts, which are irrefutable, reveal a greater than 90% reliance on the private landlords to rehouse single homeless households in England and is a dangerous systemic fact that is being ignored by those who claim to care about homelessness.  It is dangerous madness.

ALL of the above arguments I made on the day this policy was first announced in April 2019 under the May government.  Since then we have had the pandemic which will make ALL landlords even more risk averse on whom they accommodate due to the increased risks of job loss and arrears build up that covid-19 has directly created.  Yet still we see the usual self-titled ‘experts’ of the homeless sector demanding banning NFE all the more! 

What planet are they on!



  1. The 13,000 SRS figure for England – see Moving On by Crisis 2017 cited above
  2. The 150,000 single homeless England figure is crudely 100,000 in England’s 40,000 hostel rooms each year plus 50,000 rough sleepers per year plus other single homeless cohorts such as the one-third of women who are childless and in refuge.  Single homeless household equates to 1 bed housing need to begin the escape from homelessness.
  3. The 150,000 single homeless EXCLUDES the 386,000 English households who have a sofa surfing single household (individual or childless couple) – This alone adds another 463,000 single homeless persons each year in these 386,000 households at 1.2 persons per household.  These are official English Housing Survey figures published in July 2020 by MHCLG
  4. It is not recorded anywhere how long the average resident spends at hostels in England unlike in Scotland where the official figure is 97 days which sees each hostel room have 3.76 residents per year.  My estimate of close to 100,000 residents at England 40,000 hostel rooms is a cautious one and based on an average length of stay being 148 days  and 2.44 residents per hostel room per year that is based on data I have from homeless providers I either advise or in contact with regularly over the past 20 years from right across England.  It is a cautious estimate and a likely underestimate of single homeless numbers.
  5. The 40,000 hostel rooms in England is comprised from the near 35,000 that are recorded in the Homeless Link annual survey they give under contract to MHCLG plus the more than 6,000 hostel rooms that I am professionally aware of that are not included in this HL survey that are often owned and managed by not for profit organisations, CICs and other Housing Trusts.  There are more homeless hostel rooms owned and managed by for-profit housing organisations not included in my figures.