Almost 1,800 Greenwich families are living in temporary accommodation as the cost-of-living crisis places “extreme demand” on the borough’s homelessness services.  

By autumn, that included dozens of families put up in budget hotel rooms.  

In October, Greenwich Council spent £94,747.92 on emergency hotels, including Travelodges and Premier Inns. 

Pat Slattery, cabinet member for housing, said the council was at “breaking point”, “struggling” to find any more temporary accommodation in Greenwich or neighbouring boroughs. 

“We need central government to step up and urgently address the national housing crisis, which is leaving far too many people at risk of homelessness and local authorities without the right resources to provide long-term support,” she said. 

But government has responded to Greenwich’s predicament by imposing a real-terms cut on its homelessness funding. 

The Figures 

The News Shopper used the Freedom of Information Act to demand two years’ worth of data on Greenwich Council’s use of emergency hotels. 

Between October 2020 and September 2021, Greenwich placed an average of 23 households in hotels per month. 

It spent £233,696 – an average of £19,475 per month – on 10,032 nights in hotels. 

Between October 2021 and September 2022, the council placed an average of 38 households per month in hotels. 

The annual number of nights more than doubled to 21,510. 

So did the cost, up 124% to £522,549 – a monthly average of £43,546. 

The latest released figures – from October 2022 – are even higher. 

There were 75 households in hotels for 4,054 nights, at a cost of £94,747.92. 

That meant the cost in October alone was almost a fifth of the cost of the entire previous year. 

What is happening? 

Ballooning mortgage interest rates are seeing many landlords either hike rents or leave the market. 

At the same time, the cost-of-living crisis is leaving increasing numbers of people unable to afford their bills and having to approach councils for homelessness assistance. 

These problems have come on top of a long-standing housing shortage, which had already priced many out of the market. 

“The national housing crisis has pushed London’s council-provided temporary accommodation to breaking point and Royal Greenwich is no exception,” said Cllr Slattery.  

“Numbers and costs have spiralled in the last year, placing extreme pressure on our Temporary Accommodation Service, as the demand for accommodation continues to outweigh supply. 

“The lack of long-term options available to move households on from temporary housing means we’re often having to place people in accommodation that is not ideal for their circumstances.” 

With more people in need than available properties, she said, “the council has to allocate homes to people who are most in need. This means that some people have to wait longer than we would like.” 

News Shopper: Greenwich Council, which holds its meetings at the Woolwich Centre, faces a real-terms cut to its Homelessness Prevention Grant, despite soaring demandGreenwich Council, which holds its meetings at the Woolwich Centre, faces a real-terms cut to its Homelessness Prevention Grant, despite soaring demand (Image: Google Streetview)

Funding ‘cut’ 

Despite these “spiralling” costs, government has imposed a real-terms cut on Greenwich’s Homelessness Prevention Grant (HPG), given to “prevent and tackle homelessness”. 

In 2022/3, the council got £3,722,649 – later topped up with a one-off payment of £582,180, due to soaring demand. 

For 2023/4, Greenwich is getting £3,773,444.  

Whilst up from 2022/3’s figure, the Bank of England inflation calculator says that by December 2022 you would have to spend £4,042,794.14 to achieve the March 2022 spending power of £3,722,649. 

This means that by December, the 2023/4 figure actually represented a real-terms cut of 6.6% - likely to be even more by spring. 

Government response 

We asked the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) why it had imposed a real-terms cut on Greenwich's HPG. 

It did not answer. 

Instead, a spokesperson said: “Greenwich Council has up to £271m available for this financial year through the Local Government Finance Settlement, so it can continue to deliver vital services for its residents, rising up to £297m in 2023/4.” 

According to the Bank of England, to achieve the March 2022 spending power of £271m by December 2022, you would have to spend £294,305,805.59.  

By March 2023, this  increase in Greenwich’s overall funding may therefore amount to a real-terms cut.  

The DLUHC continued: “We have also provided the council with more than £4,244,714 this year as part of the HPG to prevent evictions and ensure families in Greenwich are not left without a roof over their heads.”