Being homeless shouldn’t be a crime

The party is quite rightly campaigning to change the Vagrancy Act so that homelessness is not a crime. This is an initiative that has been spear-headed by Layla Moran:

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22 Comments

  • Peter Martin 23rd Feb '20 - 12:21pm

    Done!

  • It may be me but this comes across as a bit partisan. As I hope the author would know, but doesn’t mention, it is not just the vagrancy act that can lead to the criminalisation of homeless people, antisocial behaviour orders and public space protection orders are also used for similar purposes. Again , as I would hope the author would know, as part of its housing strategy the government has opened a review of the vagrancy act, the terms of reference of which include looking at the impact of other legislation such as antisocial behaviour orders on homeless people and those living on the street in particular. Most stake holders have welcomed this review and have submitted evidence. Would hope that the party also welcomes the review, the repeal of the vagrancy act, whilst, in my opinion welcome and overdue will not in and of itself solve the problem of homeless people being criminalised for being homeless.

  • William Wallace 23rd Feb '20 - 3:52pm

    Good heavens, Tynan, we wouldn’t want to be partisan, would we?

  • Indeed William, perish the thought that the party might reach out across political lines to support something with which they broadly agree, even if they might go further or move faster! Would it really be so terrible to acknowledge that the government is moving in the right direction on this subject. Ok we don’t know the outcome of the review so a little critical encouragement wouldn’t go amiss but the direction of travel to date indicates that the government believes the act needs to be repealed or at least significantly ammended. All that I am suggesting is that where the government is doing something that the party broadly supports, it has the courage of its convictions and dares to publically support the process. Also as I stated, the vagrancy act itself unpleasant and anachronistic as it is, is not the main problem impacting on those who are street homeless, as those who have followed submissions to the review panel will know.

  • John Probert 24th Feb '20 - 10:28am

    Isn’t it the government the criminal for its long-term massive failure to provide affordable housing, forcing many people onto the streets?

  • @John Probert “Isn’t it the government the criminal for its long-term massive failure to provide affordable housing, forcing many people onto the streets?”

    Do you mean failure to build, or failure to relax planning regulations?

  • And the bedroom tax …….. introduced on the watch of guess which political party ? …… certainly didn’t help did it.

    Welfare reforms: impact on housing and homelessness – CPAGwww.cpag.org.uk › sites › default › files › welfare reforms and home…
    PDF
    This paper sets out the main UK welfare reforms which are likely to impact on housing and homelessness. Under occupancy charge or “bedroom tax” …

    The effect ‘bedroom tax’ and Universal Credit is having on …www.chroniclelive.co.uk › … › north tyneside council
    13 Feb 2019 – A man ‘facing eviction’ over the so-called bedroom tax … It comes as North Tyneside Council released its Homelessness Prevention Strategy, …

  • Paul Holmes 24th Feb '20 - 3:10pm

    @TCO -Certainly not the ‘failure to relax planning regulations’. After all 40% of houses given planning permission have not seen a brick laid yet.

    ‘Failure to build’ on the other hand is a bigger failure. From the 1950’s to the early 1980’s a fairly consistent feature was that an average 100,000 Council Houses a year were built. Then Thatcher cut Government support and set out to sell off Council Housing at knock down prices and ban most Right to Buy money from going back into building replacements. The Blair/Brown Labour Governments continued this attack on Social House building and even tried to force Council’s to get rid of all their Council Housing stock.

    So let’s see, Councils used to build 100,000 houses a year and there is now a shortage of 1 Million houses. Had Councils still been able to build then there would be no overall shortage now. What’s more, at Social Rent levels, these extra houses, flats and bungalows, would have been in particular aimed at those most in need and most unable to afford to buy or rent in the private sector (remembering that ‘Affordable rents/purchase prices’ at 80% of Private levels are still in fact completely unaffordable to many people).

    Instead Council’s have to put people up, including families with young children, in unsuitable B and B’s and overpriced private sector rentals (including converted office blocks) at two and three times the cost that a decent Council owned property would involve. This in turn drives up private sector house prices as Buy to Let landlords swoop in to make money from the taxpayer.

  • John Probert 24th Feb '20 - 4:29pm

    TCO 24th Feb ’20 – 11:15am
    @John Probert “Isn’t the government the criminal for its long-term massive failure to provide affordable housing, forcing many people onto the streets?”
    Do you mean failure to build, or failure to relax planning regulations?

    I mean failure to build! What would you do about relaxing planning regulations?

  • @John Probert “I mean failure to build! What would you do about relaxing planning regulations?”

    Planning regulations prohibit / make fiscally unattractive all sorts of developments,

    Plus our famous “local councillors, hard working for you all year round” block many developments that would be allowed.

  • @ Martin “Paul Holmes comments are apposite…..In theory the ‘bedroom tax’ was supposed to alleviate homelessness. If people downsized or let out unused rooms, this could be the case”.

    Indeed, so…….. but there was plenty of evidence that this pre-condition didn’t exist, and any political party worth it’s salt would and should research issues before they troop through the lobby.

  • @David Raw “”In theory the ‘bedroom tax’ was supposed to alleviate homelessness. If people downsized or let out unused rooms, this could be the case”.

    Indeed, so…….. but there was plenty of evidence that this pre-condition didn’t exist.”

    I’m not sure what you’re saying here. Are you saying that people in council-provided accommodation were unable to downsize or let out a spare room? Or were unwilling to? Or are you saying that publicly-provided housing, which is (or should be, according to Beveridge’s principle that “The State in organising security should not stifle incentive, opportunity, responsibility; in establishing a national minimum, it should leave room and encouragement for voluntary action by each individual to provide more than that minimum for himself and his family.”) a safety net, is efficiently distributed such that everyone has exactly the right amount of space they need, and no-one in need of this safety net is unable to access the right size of accommodation for them? That there are no instances where there are families in need of family-sized accommodation who are unable to access it, and no instances of family-sized accommodation being occupied by singeltons?

  • David Raw,
    Using robust evidence and considering the impact of unintended consequences in formulating policy is indeed good advice. The under-occupancy charge was poorly conceived and poorly implemented policy. There are surely better ways of incentivising more efficient use of public housing.
    I came across another not too well thought through policy proposal recently:
    Danny Dorling and Sally Tomlinson in “RULE BRITANIA” pages 184-185 on housing in London write:

    “Where else in Europe would 4,600 new basements be carved into the ground beneath the city’s grandest homes in the space of just a decade, to make so many extra empty rooms for the rich?
    In aggregate, just the first level of these new luxury subterranean chambers reaches down under the streets of London to the depth of more than fifty new Grenfell Towers. The rich of Kensington were not taxed and instead spent their money building rooms for themselves that they would hardly make good use of.”
    But there is still cause for hope. The good news is that London is full of enough housing for all. There are more empty bedrooms in London than there are people who need housing – but almost all of those bedrooms are in under-occupied privately owned property. We do not need to build much new housing in the capital to live better lives. We just need to reorganise how we have chosen to live. The super-rich have done their bit now, by building so many luxury skyscrapers in recent years and – like those basements – they are mostly empty. It was as if they knew there would be a need for housing in the future. There is but the need is not the most acute among those who can pay the most. So, at some point, underused buildings in London will have to be requisitioned, starting with providing hostels to help keep the homeless off the streets. ”
    That may seem far fetched until we recall it was under consideration by Labour in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2017/06/15/jeremy-corbyn-empty-homes-owned-rich-should-requisitioned-grenfell/
    You don’t need me to tell you what the Liberal answer is but it is not pushing vulnrable people out of public housing or commandeering private property soviet style.

  • Interesting points, Joe, but there’s also a world outside London, and I do wish TCO would look outside his world too. Look up and consider this :

    Impact of the Bedroom Tax and Other Changes to Housing …publications.parliament.uk › cmselect › cmscotaf › writev › bedroom
    25 Oct 2013 – Even amongst the most vulnerable of HHP’s tenants the bedroom tax is causing massive problems. Homeless … Case studies:

  • @TCO Council tenants are not allowed to sublet their premises.

    And no, many Councils do not have suitable smaller accomodation to offer for tenants to downsize to. Councils have endured over 30 years of Council property being sold off, a stranglehold being put on new building and rising waiting lists.

  • @David Raw “Interesting points, Joe, but there’s also a world outside London, and I do wish TCO would look outside his world too.”

    I’ve never lived in London in my life. It’s also not possible to read the article you’ve attempted to post. If you follow this link it shows you how to create html tags?

    @Paul Holmes “And no, many Councils do not have suitable smaller accomodation [sic] to offer for tenants to downsize to. ” But the private sector does.

  • Homelessness is a crime of our society; everytime I see someone bedding down on our streets it fills me with embarrassment. It shouldn’t be happening. And every time it does it is due to a number of people including the person effected not caring enough. These incidents are seens months in advance for the most part and can be prevented. We need more resources and a change in mind set.

  • David Evans 25th Feb '20 - 2:16pm

    TCO – In your response to @Paul Holmes you say “And no, many Councils do not have suitable smaller accomodation [sic] to offer for tenants to downsize to. ” But the private sector does.

    However, what relevance does this have to those affected by the Bedroom Tax? They were in Social Housing, not in Private sector housing.

  • @David Evans “However, what relevance does this have to those affected by the Bedroom Tax? They were in Social Housing, not in Private sector housing.”

    The purpose of the Under Occupancy Charge was to distribute state-provided safety-net housing more equitably to those in the greatest need. If the state doesn’t own suitable housing to relocate people into, it can rent it from the private sector. This happens already with Housing Benefit.

  • @TCO But private sector housing is more expensive. So a Council Tenant who is being financially hit by the Bedroom Tax is, according to you, supposed to move to a more expensive Private Let -in order to save money?

    As Spock would say “Does not compute.”

  • @Paul Holmes you don’t seem to understand, so let me try another way.

    If Family A is in private four bedroom accommodation paid for by the state because there are no council houses available, and OAP B is in a four bedroomed council house despite living on their own, then moving Family A into OAP B’s four bedroomed council house and renting a one bedroomed flat for OAP B would represent a saving.

    More importantly it would be a more equitable distribution of scarce social safety-net housing to those with the greatest need.

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