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Rough sleeping figures ‘should not be trusted’

homeless is sleeping outdoor in Milan, Italy

The manner in which data on the numbers of those sleeping rough on the streets has been subject to much debate in the sector of late, particularly following recent government claims that the number of rough sleepers has actually fallen. This has caused – to put things mildly – some slight consternation.

Enter stage left Sir David Norgrove, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority. He has said that these recently released figures, showing an apparent 2% fall in rough sleeping in England in 2018, “should not be trusted” until the government explains how data from an emergency funding scheme might have been interpreted.

The reason for the controversy surrounding these figures? Many councils have changed their data collecting methodologies over the past few months and years, moving away from estimates to a count. Doing so sees a reduction in the official numbers of rough sleepers across the board. Critics claim that this methodology does not portray an accurate representation of the reality of rough sleeping.

Norgorve seems to be among these critics, saying that the official 2018 figures should not be used to make claims about rough sleeping until concerns that some councils deliberately under-reported the “scale of crisis” in their area are addressed.

Lies, damn lies, and statistics, and all that. In related news, perhaps the Big Issue can shine some further light on this…er, big issue (well, you would think they know what they’re talking about). They’ve published a report of their own using FOI requests to detail the impact of the Homelessness Reduction Act, with some intriguing results.

In private sector news… rents rising at fastest rate in over two years

let

It’s always good to keep a beady eye on the machinations of the private rented sector if you’re in social housing, as big change there will inevitably have a knock on effect for social tenants too. And it seems all is not entirely comfy for both tenants and their landlords at this precise moment.

HomeLet, an organisation that very handily keeps watch on private rent levels, has found that there has been a steep rise in rents over the past months, the fastest in over two years in fact.

In their latest analysis they found rental values have increased at a higher pace than was seen throughout last year, rising by 3.3% in the last 12 months with the average rent in the UK now being £924 per month. They state that this shows a move away from the normal fluctuations of the market with rents for new tenancies now rising at a rate above inflation, which has not happened since 2016.

The reason for this is the Tenant Fees Act, due to come into effect on Saturday 1 June 2019. This sees the banning of letting fees for new tenants, which on the surface seems a good thing. But when combined with new taxation changes it is leaving many landlords out of pocket, and they are passing the buck – quite literally – onto prospective new tenants. They’ll now have to pay more as part of their rent each month instead of upfront when they first move in.

Of course, that could be a good thing as many tenants would prefer to spread the cost of moving into a new pad over a longer period, but with the cost of living still high it won’t be for everyone.

And with Brexit continuing to hover around the place like an angry wasp, who knows where rent rates will be months or even years down the line? HomeLet’s Chief Executive comments that for rates to stay the same current wage and employment levels will need to as well, to prop up demand. All ifs and buts and maybes at this point, but it does seem we’re set for a few more months of rent rises as the PRS adapts to all these new changes… be they for good or for ill.