Published: 19 February 2024

From: Housing

A motion to declare a housing emergency in Crawley will go before councillors this week.

The proposed declaration is due to unprecedented temporary accommodation demands facing the town.

The level of demand is outstripping the supply of available units, both in terms of temporary accommodation, but also more permanent accommodation. Those in real housing need are having to be placed in accommodation that may not meet their needs, may not even be in the borough and may be for long periods of time. This is not a temporary situation – the prospects are for current trends to continue or worsen. 

By declaring a housing emergency, the council would be seeking to draw attention to the situation, to explain to residents (especially those with acute housing needs) why the situation has arisen, and to seek greater support and action from government who hold many of the key levers needed to address the crisis.

Crawley is one of the worst affected areas in the country. A number of factors are driving increasingly unsustainable temporary accommodation costs, which have risen from £262,000 in 2018 to 2019 to £5.7 million in 2023 to 2024 – a 20-fold increase and a figure which now accounts for one pound in every three of the council's budget.

Other factors include:

  • the unaffordability of home ownership for an increasing number of people
  • a shrinking private rented sector with soaring rents (eight per cent increase in the last year) that makes this housing unaffordable for a growing number of people
  • the shortage of council and other social housing to meet demand
  • water neutrality planning restrictions imposed by Natural England either slowing down or preventing new development
  • the presence of four asylum contingency hotels in the town and the decision of the Home Office to disperse those seeking asylum directly into communities without a managed process or proper support in place

 At 6 February 2024, this has resulted in:

  • 2,796 applications made for the 243 housing units made available in the last eight months – more than 11 applicants per property
  • 485 households, or 1,224 people, living in temporary accommodation

 This is despite the council’s efforts to tackle these pressures including:

  • one of the best records in the country developing social housing, delivering over 1,600 affordable homes over the past 10 years, and continuing to bring new sites forward
  • buying additional properties such as the recent acquisition of 6-9 Ifield Road
  • retrofitting thousands of council homes with water saving devices, allowing the council to gain ‘water credits’ and build more homes
  • pursuing long leasing opportunities for temporary accommodation to increase supply and reduce costs
  • bidding for funding streams to support new affordable housing and temporary accommodation
  • using more than £500,000 of funding over the past two years to support people to stay in their accommodation and prevent them from becoming homeless

Councillor Michael Jones, Leader of the Council, will be moving the motion, seconded by the Cabinet member for Housing, Councillor Ian Irvine. Councillor Jones said:

We urgently need help to deal with these pressures and call on the government to increase the Housing Benefit subsidy rate, which is currently frozen at 2011 levels. The cost of temporary accommodation has increased hugely since then.

Councillor Michael Jones


Crawley Borough Council

The notice of motion will be debated at the Full Council meeting on Wednesday 21 February