Housing First

Housing First is an approach to homelessness that focuses on housing homeless people immediately, whatever their needs, and giving them direct control over their own support and treatment. The programme works by putting people in touch with housing providers, health workers, social care staff and other services.

While there are about 4,750 rough sleepers in England (many with mental health and addiction problems), there are far larger numbers of homeless families in temporary accommodation. Few homeless families have the high support needs of rough sleepers; most are poor. What these families need first and foremost is an adequate, affordable home.

Housing First needs a supply of affordable, adequate, secure housing. But the private rented sector in the UK is too often overpriced, insecure and poor quality. Eviction from private sector tenancies has become the leading cause of homelessness in the UK. There is not enough social housing and “affordable” housing is often not actually affordable.

The objective of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Land Value Capture has been to identify the barriers to and opportunities that exist in national and local authorities land value capture policies. How Land Value Capture can aid in meeting affordable housing development goals has been a key focus of the first report of the APPG published this month – Capturing Land Value for the Public Benefit.

Tom Aubrey of the Centre for Progressive Policy summed up his evidence to the inquiry as follows:

Until the UK housing market is reformed and [for as long as] it remains more profitable not to build houses than it is to build them, it is highly unlikely that levels of house building will increase by much. However, should a British Chancellor of the Exchequer decide to promote a productive economy instead, then large-scale, public-led land assembly, by city region authorities, would be able to capture a greater share of the uplift in land values if there were changes to the 1961 Land Compensation Act. This would permit land assembly by city region authorities and enable them to acquire land at closer to use value; they could then make use of it – in conjunction with their own land – in dedicated housing zones. This would make the market more efficient, ensure that the rewards of innovation and hard workflow to all firms and workers in a city region, rather than to those who own property assets. This would also bring about a greater level of capital investment which Britain so clearly needs.

Ending homelessness requires an integrated strategy. A housing first approach can help in getting rough sleepers off the streets and into secure accommodation where they can receive assistance with mental health care and substance abuse problems; but only a focus on the entrenched problem of land values can deliver sufficient affordable housing to address the increasing numbers of families unable to secure accommodation in the private rented sector.

* Joe is a Vice-Chair of Hounslow Liberal Democrats and Chair of ALTER.

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One Comment

  • Wera Hobhouse and Tom Brake in the house today asking searching questions of ministers from the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

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