Skip to main content
Luton Borough Council

Reducing homelessness

What do we hope to achieve?

Households in Luton have access to high quality employment and support which helps to secure long term accommodation which is suitable and affordable. Low income households are also able to access the private rented sector affordably.

When people need advice and support, the council will be proactive in preventing homelessness, and prompt in dealing with statutory homelessness applications. We will continue to reduce the use of temporary accommodation and help people to secure settled accommodation. We will work in partnership to eliminate rough sleeping.

Open all

Homelessness is a major challenge in Luton and the town is an outlier in the use of temporary accommodation. Too many households struggle to secure appropriate housing and the cost of rents in the private sector are well above Local Housing Allowance levels making them out of reach for any low income households, including many people who are in work.

At November 2021, actual rents were 10 to 25% above LHA levels, depending on size of property, meaning that households on low incomes would need to find an additional £8 to £58 per week to top up the shortfall.

The Covid-19 pandemic impacted on homelessness in a number of ways. Rough sleeping was virtually eliminated through the ‘Everyone In’ initiative during 2020 to 2021 but has started to increase following the ending of targeted funding, especially for people with No Recourse to Public Funds.

Our consultation told us that local residents are concerned about rough sleeping and the feel of the town centre. It’s clear that visible begging and street drinking create a perception that the rough sleeper numbers are higher than they actually are. Supporting very vulnerable people prone to exploitation is about more than just housing, and will have an impact on residents feeling safe and welcome in the town.

Luton’s economy was particularly hard hit during the pandemic due to the role of the airport in providing local jobs and supply chain demand. The town had one of the highest furlough rates in the country which meant that households were more likely to have a change of circumstances and move onto Universal Credit from other legacy benefits.

The claimant count for working age people increased by around 120% during the pandemic. Housing affordability remained a challenge throughout the pandemic, and a more limited housing market reduced opportunities to secure housing.

Case study: Homelessness prevention

Our homelessness prevention officer was able to negotiate with a private landlord so that a family could stay in the home where they had lived for ten years. The landlord had been looking to renegotiate the rent and our financial assessment showed the family were able to afford a change in rent.

The council supported the transition through short term financial assistance. This intervention prevented a homelessness application, helped the family to remain for at least another two years and also stabilised a fostering placement for a looked after child.

Homelessness approaches were 2,032 in 2019 to 2020 and fell to 1,625 in 2020 to 2021, rising to 4,652 in 2021 to 2022. The most common reason for homelessness is the ending of a private tenancy or family and friends being unable to accommodate.

As a major landlord in the town the work we do with our tenants to sustain tenancies and prevent evictions is a part of a broader homelessness prevention offer. Our homelessness service was reshaped in 2020 to better meet demand and place greater focus on prevention of homelessness.

We also benefit from strong local partnerships with statutory partners and the voluntary sector and work together to support vulnerable people experiencing homelessness. This collaboration has supported a growing Housing First programme to provide long term accommodation with support to former rough sleepers.

However there are individuals known to us and our partners who have complex needs and are not well served by existing services. The council is working with partners to access funding for specialist supported accommodation for exploited women, and for around fifteen units of supported accommodation for people with complex needs.

Information from education services indicates that some schools have seen significant turnover of pupils in their school roll; and temporary accommodation is a factor in this churn which disrupts educational outcomes. Although the use of temporary accommodation is reducing, it remains a significant form of accommodation in the town.

It is essential that this is good quality accommodation, and we have been increasing our oversight on safety compliance and quality, and the management of hostel accommodation, over the past two years.

Feedback from our engagement with young people in the town highlighted also that there is a need for more information and guidance for young people to learn about the housing market and housing options so they are better placed to make life choices as they leave the family home.

Luton has a strong infrastructure of partnership which can mobilise quickly to respond to funding opportunities and emerging challenges in homelessness. A key strategic aim is to play our part in keeping partnerships active in the town. 

The delivery of more affordable homes is an essential part of meeting our homelessness challenge, but there is more availability in the private rented sector. Maintaining the accessibility of private tenancies as a means of preventing and alleviating homelessness is therefore both an opportunity and a challenge. 

The council has responded to this opportunity through establishing a social lettings agency as a joint venture with Squared housing association. Luton Lets Squared has a role to influence the quality of the local rented market and make it more accessible to people on lower incomes who would struggle to meet the requirements of other lettings providers. Luton Lets Squared could have more impact if its financial position was more secure, so we are pursuing diversification into sales which will support this. 

Luton has a strategy for post-Covid economic recovery including improvements in skills and employability which will help people secure good jobs and support their families. This will also help to alleviate the risk of homelessness.

As a council we have been very successful in accessing national funding to develop our services to homeless people especially rough sleepers. However, this does mean that a number of homeless services and projects are dependent on short term external funding.

Despite several funding bids, we have so far not secured investment in much needed complex needs accommodation for people who are most at risk of falling between assessment systems. The Rough Sleeping Initiative Grant is due to end in 2025 and will encourage a collaborative approach to commissioning which should deliver ongoing support to people rough sleeping. However, the loss of funding is a risk to services.

There is an opportunity to examine and reshape the model for service provision to be more sustainable over the next two years, in partnership with delivery organisations.

The council also faces a significant financial challenge whilst temporary accommodation usage is so high. Reducing the use of temporary accommodation will not only improve housing options for people in the town but help the council to make necessary savings. 

Another challenge faced by the council is the attractiveness of Luton as a location for other authorities placing homeless households into our area. This creates additional demand in the longer term and requires transparency and partnership to ensure people settle well.

These placements have tended to concentrate in permitted development projects converted from office use, some of which have not met required standards. Our activities to limit permitted development schemes, along with close working relationships with other councils and government agencies aim to mitigate the impacts of these placements.

Reducing homelessness and providing specialist support was a priority both for those involved in our youth engagement and our general housing strategy consultation. Among young people, 36% wanted to eliminate rough sleeping in Luton, whilst in our broader survey, a third of respondents supported specialist housing to meet the needs of very vulnerable people.

Case study: Big Change Luton

Big Change Luton logo

Led by the Luton Homeless Partnership, Big Change Luton provides an opportunity for people to donate directly to local charities working with people who experience homelessness. Through this funding, personalised support helps with a range of things to help people settle and get back on track.

For example, Declan had help to furnish his first home after living in a tent for eight years, and Chloe was able to apply for a passport which helped to secure accommodation and apply for a driving license to support her in finding work.

Number in temporary accommodation to reduce to under 700 by 2024 and under 500 by 2027.
Accommodation will be safe secure and suitable for children in temporary accommodation.
We will encourage and support families to move into rented homes within 2 years of entering temporary accommodation. 

All temporary accommodation to continue to meet building safety and compliance requirements.
Rough sleeping to reduce to zero by 2027. 

Increase income to and expand Luton Lets Squared to support more successful private sector discharges. 

Retain and strengthen partnerships including Luton Homeless Partnerships. 

Complete and implement system change approach to improve outcomes for vulnerable people at risk of rough sleeping.

Delivery of complex needs accommodation/specialist supported housing for women, directly or with partners.

Work with community partners and education settings to support awareness of housing issues for younger people in the town.

<< Back

Right homes, more homes

Next >>

Quality homes and neighbourhoods

© 2024 Luton Council, Town Hall, Luton LU1 2BQ