Introduction to the topic

English law defines somebody as homeless if they have no accommodation, or it is not reasonable for them to continue to occupy the accommodation they have. Homelessness in England in each of its various forms has increased in recent years. In response to increasing homelessness pressures, demand for local authorities’ prevention activities has also increased in recent years. Local authorities have increased their spending on homelessness while simultaneously reducing spending on preventing it.

The interactive visualisations below describes changes in homelessness in England since 2009-10. You can use them to explore the broad trends identified by our report Homelessness and build a richer understanding of what they mean for different parts of the country.

How to use the visualisations

  • All the graphics are interactive:
    • Hovering over the maps and charts gives you more detailed information.
    • If you click on an area on the map, or click the name of an area on the list, the data presented will be for that area only.
    • Hovering on a category in any of the charts will show only information the category applies to. For example, if you hover over Rough sleepers in Figure 1.a then the other charts will show information for rough sleepers as well.
  • To go back to where you started you can either click:
    • The category or the area you used as a filter
    • Reset in the bottom left corner, or
    • Undo at the top of the screen
  • Hold ‘Ctrl’ (Apple ⌘) to select multiple items and compare
  • To share what you see you can either click the Share button and:
    • Click the button for Email, Twitter or Facebook, or
    • Copy the text in the Embed Code box and paste it in the HMTL for your web page
  • If an error message displays, please refresh the page to reload.


Homelessness in England in each of its various forms has increased in recent years. The number of rough sleepers stood at more than 4,000 in the autumn of 2016, having increased from fewer than 1,800 in the autumn of 2010. The number of homeless households in temporary accommodation has also increased, rising from fewer than 49,000 in March 2011 to around 77,000 in March 2017.

While each measure of homelessness has increased across England since 2010, this has not been uniform across the whole country. Click on the map or double click to explore data in local area to see how the challenges presented there by homeless have changed since 2010.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (the Department) collects information on the reported reason for the loss of the last settled home for all households who qualify for temporary accommodation. In the past, many of these households would have been living in the home of another household and told to leave, or their homelessness would be due to a relationship breakdown.

Since 2010 there has been a substantial and unprecedented rise in the proportion of households who qualified for temporary accommodation after the end of an assured shorthold tenancy (AST). Before 2011-12, the proportion of households who qualified for temporary accommodation and reported that the cause of their homelessness was the end of an AST was between 10% and 15%. It has subsequently increased to 32% of all households.

The increase is particularly significant in London. Click on the map or double click to explore data in a local area to see the reason for loss of last settled home and how this has changed since 2009-10.

We used data from the Valuation Office Agency about the 25th percentile rents for two bedroom private properties to compare the change in rents levels in different parts of the country. We also looked at the change in homelessness over the same period. Click on the ‘Region’ selector to see how private rents and homelessness compare.

Across England, homelessness increased by 25% in areas which had the highest increase in private rents since 2012-13. Private rent has increased most in the South and East of England, and nine out of ten of the higher rent authorities are in this area. In areas where the there was an average increase in private rents homelessness only increased by 1%. In areas which had the lowest increase in private rents homelessness actually decreased by 8%.

Spending by single tier and district councils on homelessness services increased in real terms from £940 million in 2010-11 to £1,132 million in 2015-16. During the same period, annual local authority spending on housing services by single tier and district councils, of which homelessness services are a part, fell from £3.43 billion to £2.77 billion. Click on the name of an area to see how spending on housing services and on types of temporary accommodation have changed.

Local authorities are prioritising funding for temporary accommodation, because they have a legal obligation to meet this need. Nationally, the proportion of spending on nightly paid accommodation has increased while the proportion of spending on accommodation leased from private landlords has decreased.

The proportion of temporary accommodation placements that are outside the local authority’s area has increased, from 11% in March 2010 to 28% in March 2017. Nine in ten households that are in an out of area temporary accommodation placement have been placed there by a London borough.

The Department for Work & Pensions collected data on the movement of around 254,000 Local Housing Allowance claimants between two different local authorities in England from March 2010 to November 2014.

There are clear regional differences in how common it is for people claiming Local Housing Allowance to move been areas. For example, more Local Housing Allowance claimants have moved out of central London than have moved in. Many of these claimants have moved from inner London to outer London, and from outer London to authorities in the South East and East of England.

Click on the name of a region to see how people from that part of the country moved between areas.

Click on the map to see where people from that area moved to and where the people moving into that area came from.

More information

Frequently Asked Questions

Where does this data come from?

The visualisation presents data for the 326 single tier and district council areas in England, using data from a number of different collections. These are:

Why has the NAO published this data?

The visualisation is published under the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014. This provides powers to the Comptroller and Auditor General to examine the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which local authorities use their resources in discharging their functions. The purpose is to provide evaluation, commentary and advice of a general nature. The figures presented here should not be viewed as indicative in any way of the current ‘performance’ of any individual local authority. A complex range of specific factors underlie the results for each local authority and you should not assume that one authority can be compared directly with others.

When is a household homeless?

Under the Housing Act 1996, somebody is defined as homeless when they have no accommodation, or it is not reasonable for them to continue to occupy the accommodation they have. This legislation states that this lack of availability can be due to reasons including a lack of a legal right to occupy accommodation, and because existing accommodation is unsafe to occupy because of the risk of domestic violence. Throughout this visualisation when we refer to homelessness and homeless people we do so in line with its statutory definition. The Housing Act 1996 places a duty on local authorities to provide free advice and information about homelessness and its prevention to any person in their district. This legislation also places a number of duties on local authorities to provide assistance to homeless people, which can include providing temporary and settled accommodation. For a homeless household to qualify for temporary accommodation, their local authority must be satisfied that their household’s migration status does not make them ineligible for support, that they meet one of the criteria that would classify them as ’in priority need‘, and that their homelessness is not intentional.

Why is some local authority information missing from the visualisation?

Information about households who are accepted as homeless or who are placed by local authorities in temporary accommodation is collected by the Department of Communities and Local Government (the Department) quarterly. The visualisation summarises information for whole years. Results for local authorities that omitted data for one or more quarter are not included in the visualisation. The Department has a convention that numbers for individual local authorities that are less than 5 should not be published. This eliminates the possibility of disclosing information about the individuals counted in the data. The visualisation complies with this convention. As a result:

  • Categories have been merged
  • Any results less than 5 have been replaced with a value of 2

Why does some of the data in the visualisation differ from what’s published elsewhere?

Wherever possible the visualisation provides data that matches that published in the original source. However there are some cases where this is not possible. The data used in the visualisation may differ from results published elsewhere because:

  • Rounding – We have not rounded the totals for England and we have not rounded any values for regions that have been calculated from the values reported by individual local authorities
  • Revisions to data – the information about the reasons that households become homeless uses the information submitted by local authorities. It does not include any revisions published subsequently by the Department
  • Missing data – When the Department calculates totals for England and for regions it estimates results for any councils that did not provided data. The visualisation includes these estimates, where they are available, and omits them where they are not available
  • Rough sleepers in 2009 – We have derived numbers of rough sleepers for 2009-10 using the results of estimates and street counts made by local authorities in 2009 and early 2010. Estimates of numbers of rough sleepers for subsequent years are based on a different approach and the two sets of data are not directly comparable

Where can I find out more about homelessness in England?

The Department publishes statistics relating to homelessness and it updates its publications during the year. You’ll find a list of its statistical collections relating to homelessness here.

How can I get an accessible version of this visualisation?

Phone the NAO Enquiries point +44 (0)20 7798 7264.

Alternatively, you can email general enquiries to or use our online contact form.

My question is not answered here, where can I get more information?

Phone the NAO Enquiries point +44 (0)20 7798 7264.

Alternatively, you can email general enquiries to or use our online contact form.