Levels of homelessness a national disgrace

There is a new report out by Shelter, ‘Homelessness in Great Britain: the numbers behind the story’, which shows that homelessness is increasing across the country, with one in 52 people in London now homeless.

Large increases in homelessness have also affected areas such as the West Midlands and the north-west of the country.  While it is difficult to know true numbers, the estimated total of those homeless across Great Britain is believed to be 320,000.

Liberal Democrat Housing Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse says,

It is an absolute disgrace that hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people have been left without a roof over their head. The Conservative Government’s failure to look after these people is nothing short of a dereliction of duty.

It doesn’t need to be this way. Conservative Ministers need to recognise the urgent need to build more social homes. We have been calling for 50,000 social houses to be built every year, rising to 100,000 as soon as possible. The Government also need to ensure that housing benefits are sufficient for covering rent and bring the thousands of vacant properties across the country into use.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has been working on documenting the deaths of people experiencing street homelessness.  Their research has identified 400 people who died in the last year  while rough sleeping In England and Wales.

Charities such as Housing Justice argue that housing is a human right, and that we need broader provision to ensure everyone has a safe place to live.

Shelter’s report analysed recent data on homelessness, links to which are here.


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  • Don’t despair;the ‘caring’ Conservatives, in the form of Justin Tomlinson (the junior work and pensions minister), have a possible answer; the homeless could become lodgers in the homes of those in poverty (because of of the benefit cap).

    When asked about the wider reasons for the benefit cap to the committee, Justin Tomlinson said it had three objectives: saving money, the “fairness test” over comparisons with working incomes and incentivising work. I note that, as the prime reason is ‘saving money’, Justin Tomlinson’s suggestion could ‘kill two birds with one stone’; a reasonable rent for the homeless (after all, it’ll be cheaper than ‘B&Bs’) and keeping the benefit cap below the poverty level.

    I know it’s unfair but, every time I hear such nasty, fatuous drivel from the government, I can’t help but remember that these are the very people with whom”….we won’t find anything to bloody disagree on….”

  • The Guardian has a summary of the Shelter report https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/nov/22/at-least-320000-homeless-people-in-britain-says-shelter.
    The problem is particularly acute in the highest rent areas.

    “Newham in east London is ranked as England’s number one homelessness hotspot, with at least one in every 24 people in housing insecurity. More than 14,500 people were in temporary accommodation in the borough, and 76 were sleeping rough.
    In the capital as a whole, 170,000 people – equivalent to one in 52 – have no home. Westminster had the most rough sleepers, 217, followed by Camden, with 127. In Kensington and Chelsea, the UK’s richest borough, there were over 5,000 homeless people – equivalent to one in every 29 residents.

    The figures indicate how homelessness and housing insecurity is spreading beyond its traditional heartland of London into the wider south-east and Midlands, and the impact of high rents and welfare cuts ripples outwards.
    Outside the capital, high homelessness rates were recorded in Birmingham, Luton, Brighton & Hove, Slough, Dartford, Milton Keynes, Harlow, Watford, Epsom, Reading, Broxbourne, Basildon, Peterborough and Coventry.
    Regionally, homelessness grew fastest in the West Midlands and Yorkshire and Humberside, which saw 12% increases, followed by the north-west with an 11% rise. Homelessness fell in the north-east and south-west regions of England by 8%.”

    The government recently announced a lifting of borrowing caps for local authorities. We need to go further, so brownfield sites can be acquired at close to existing use values. We need a campaign for reform of the 1961 Land Compensation Act to enable the UK to meet its obligations under article 25 of the Universal Human Rights Declaration, ‘everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care’

  • @joeb
    I couldn’t agree with you more and I believe you are on the right track with this aspect of LVC. I only wish you would come away from LVT as a solution to our housing problems. LVT still relies on opportunistic housing development whereas LVC provides the tools for proper town and country planning and a comprehensive house policy.
    I also think it is far more sellable as a policy. I would be interested to know your thoughts as to why you feel LVT preferable.

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Nov '18 - 2:35pm

    Ordinary housing, including “affordable” is featured in “Grand Designs, House of the Year” on Channel 4 on 21/11/2018. 37 minutes in presenter Kevin says that “the ideas are already influencing popular housing.” In East Anglia.
    Aura, on the outskirts of Cambridge, recently won an RIBA East award.
    40% affordable. 159 apartments and 235 new houses. Average wage-owners can own a share of their home. The architect was interviewed. Some overlook mature plantations of trees.
    An experiment built in East London uses large slabs of stone, structurally, held in place by gravity “about a quarter of the price of concrete or steel-framed” 6 floors high.

  • Until we build enough social housing, homelessness will grow. Any other solution will fail and no amount of tinkering or wishful thinking will change that.

  • frankie 22nd Nov ’18 – 11:37pm……………Until we build enough social housing, homelessness will grow. Any other solution will fail and no amount of tinkering or wishful thinking will change that…………

    Yes, yes and YES!……
    Yesterday’s Guardian….he number of new homes built for social rent has fallen by almost four-fifths in a decade, according to official figures that come as more than 1 million families are stuck on waiting lists for council housing in England.
    Figures released by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government show just 6,463 homes were built in England for social rent in 2017-18, down from almost 30,000 a decade ago………

    As for the so-called “Affordable” houses…????????????????? A misnomer if ever there was one.

  • There is a broad consensus developing that recognises the need for reform of the 1961 Land Compensation Act https://www.thesun.co.uk/money/7053484/axe-laws-huge-property-developer-profits/ to address the crisis in housing provision.

    “Ministers ‘should axe laws that give landowners huge profits’ to end Britain’s housing crisis..Under the shocking 1961 Land Compensation Act, Town Halls have to pay up to 100 times the value of the land if they want to develop housing on the site.”

    Theresa May’s ex-policy aide Will Tanner, from the Onward think tank, has brought together 15 housing groups including the National Housing Federation, Shelter and Crisis to urge the Government to reform the law.
    They say councils should be given powers to borrow cash to buy land where they want to build new homes. And by paying the lower rate, they could free £9billion to spend on community facilities.

    Their call was backed by Tory MP Neil O’Brien who told The Sun: “Too many new houses are built without the new schools, new doctors’ surgeries and even parking places needed to go with them. So people oppose new houses being built.
    “If more were invested in making new homes attractive we could build more badly needed homes for young families.”

  • Peter Hirst 26th Nov '18 - 6:28pm

    This is a public health matter and should receive relevant resources. What is a person’s life worth? I think NICE years ago put it at £40,000 though it’s impossible to put a precise figure on it. Anyway, homelessness needs much more money thrown at it.

  • Wera’s article highlights to issues – a rise in rough sleeping and the growth in use of temporary accommodation.
    Housing First is an evidence-based approach to successfully supporting homeless people with high needs and histories of entrenched or repeat homelessness to live in their own homes. It has been widely adopted across the US, is central to the national homelessness strategies in Canada, Denmark, Finland and France, and is growing in popularity in countries including Italy, Sweden, Spain and, increasingly, the UK. Successful Housing First pilots are operating in Newcastle, London, the Midlands, Greater Manchester, on the South Coast and in Wales and Scotland.
    The overall philosophy of Housing First is to provide a stable, independent home and intensive personalised support and case management to homeless people with multiple and complex needs. Housing is seen as a human right by Housing First services. There are no conditions around ‘housing readiness’ before providing someone with a home; rather, secure housing is viewed as a stable platform from which other issues can be addressed. Housing First is a different model because it provides housing ‘first’, as a matter of right, rather than ‘last’ or as a reward.
    Multiple and complex needs are persistent and interrelated health and/or social care needs, which impact an individual’s life and ability to function in society. These may include:
    • Entrenched street homelessness, repeat service use or being otherwise vulnerably housed
    • Mental, psychological or emotional health needs
    • Drug and/or alcohol dependency • Contact with the criminal justice system
    • Physical health needs
    • Experience of domestic violence and abuse.
    Mainstream services are often not equipped to support individuals with these overlapping needs. Housing First has been shown to be effective in supporting people with histories of street homelessness, or other types of homelessness where contact with services has been unsuccessful in breaking the cycle of instability.
    Housing First can be adapted for specific groups, including people with repeated hospital use or custodial sentences. There is scope to use Housing First to help prevent homelessness among people with multiple and complex needs who may be at risk of homelessness.

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