LibLink: “The supply of social housing has almost dried up” – Dorothy Thornhill

If, when I was Elected Mayor of Watford, you had asked me what kept me awake at night, I would have said the number of families we had in bed and breakfast (it was once a matter of pride that there were none), and whether we had enough temporary accommodation.

Dorothy Thornhill (now an active parliamentarian in the House of Lords) has been writing in PoliticsHome about her worries about the supply of social housing. She writes:

It tells its own story that the rise in evictions from the private sector is now the top reason for people ending up in council temporary accommodation. Private rents are now out of reach for too many working families. The supply of social housing has almost dried up.

The government’s laudable Homelessness Reduction Act, brought into force in April this year, and the pledge to end rough sleeping by 2025, show commitment to solving the problem.  But without a significant rise in social housing of all types, from supported accommodation for the vulnerable through to family homes for those on low incomes, it’s not worth the vellum it’s written on.

As an aside, it is interesting that the supply of affordable housing has become a strong storyline in “The Archers”. Emma Grundy has been making heroic efforts (including taking two jobs while supporting her complicated extended family) to save for a deposit for a home on the new estate in the village. Now it all appears doomed to failure, because the developer, wealthy businessman Justin Elliott, is reducing the number of affordable homes promised for the site. But Emma is a fighter – and a parish councillor – and after a little pep talk (“The personal is political”) she decides something has to be done. Sign her up, Ambridge Lib Dems!

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames and is a member of Federal Conference Committee.

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15 Comments

  • nigel hunter 5th Jul '18 - 10:17am

    Andy Boddingtons ‘blog’ for 27th June has an article’We need affordable housing in Shropshire but will lose out because of a Government statistical trick’
    I wonder if this ‘trick’ is used nationally to deter social house building.
    Equally the ‘affordable’ tag of 80% market rate will not help social house building
    As a result the Govnt can talk the talk (homelessness) but do not really care ,just look as if they do.

  • Andrew Toye 5th Jul '18 - 3:03pm

    I think that, whilst we are fixing (or attempting to fix) the supply issue, we need to take more radical action. Desperate people cannot wait for the new supply to come on-stream and the market to correct itself.
    The main source of homelessness seems to be evictions by private landlords, so stop the evictions! This effectively means rent control, but so what? If a landlord is charging more than the local labour market can afford, that is unreasonable, and the law needs to be changed to stop it. No more gentrification in areas where there is there is an acute housing shortage.
    As a first priority, a ban on the eviction of sick, disabled or otherwise vulnerable adults and families with children until suitable alternative accommodation can be found. This means a temporary financial loss for the landlord, but this is a far smaller risk than vulnerable people facing distress, illness and early death due to having nowhere to stay, sometimes on the streets. The only exceptions to be if landlords are themselves at risk of homelessness (e.g. returning from working abroad).
    Landlords need the ability to evict people who abuse their tenancy, but the one-sided power through the notorious Section 21 of the Housing act needs to be abolished (as it has been in Scotland).
    As the party’s anthem, The Land, asks: “Why should we be beggars with the ballot in our hand?”

  • Thank you David Raw. A wonderful, amusing story with a clear message! A good lesson in how to communicate political ideas.

  • Philip Knowles 6th Jul '18 - 8:54am

    We have an issue here in Richmond (Yorks). We’re close to Catterick Garrison. Soldiers choosing to retire here get priority for council housing. That’s fair enough.
    The issue is they then also can exercise a right to buy. The discount isn’t based on how long they’ve been in the house but how long they served in the Forces.
    This combines with some of our villages having over 50℅ holiday lets to create a real shortage of all types of housing.
    Which moves me on the problems of rural areas. As our young people move away we have an increasing elderly population. Bus services are a joke. Banks are closing. Hospitals are under threat. Someone said at Southport, ‘If you want better services move to a town’ North Yorkshire is a net exporter of tax – we pay out more than we receive. We don’t want special treatment – we want what we pay for.

  • Peter Hirst 6th Jul '18 - 1:42pm

    One of the solutions to rough sleeping is to have some temporary accommodation. However, this must lead to a sustainable home. Every person will be different with different needs though the sooner a person finds somewhere they can call home and contributes to its upkeep, the better.

  • Helen Dudden 6th Jul '18 - 8:00pm

    The Right to Buy, was never a clever idea. Some of the bought homes, are up for private rental in Bath. They are around, over twice the rent of Social Housing. Students now have more new housing in real terms, than the residents. They don’t pay towards public services and are not contributing to the every day running of the city. Of course, they produce a revenue, but what is the situation going to achieve long term?
    More hotels, more empty shop buildings things are changing in the high street.

  • Helen,

    this is a problem with council tax. Students are exempt and this allows landlords to charge higher rents to students then they could if they were renting the same property to tenants that had to pay council tax. Students lets are popular with investors for this reason. If a land value tax was paid by the landowner that would contribute towards public services and the students would be unlikely to pay any more rent than they currently are.

  • Helen Dudden 7th Jul '18 - 10:08am

    Joe B. Until some equality comes into the housing sector, nothing changes in Bath.
    I now have a power chair. It barely goes through the door of my sheltered bungalow. Most certainly, I can’t use any form of wheel chair inside, just not built for disabled tenants.
    I’ve suggested all ground floor new builds, are firstly thought of as disabled friendly. But, first come, first served, is the option only on the table at present.
    The problem with some housing stock,
    its no longer suitable for those it was built for.
    As well as housing shortage, we have another issue.

  • Helen Dudden 7th Jul '18 - 7:07pm

    Katerina Porter. The better homes were quickly sold. Some of the former Georgian flats, and housing are rented out at a much higher rent, to those who can afford around £700 to a £1000 a month. But they were poorly insulated, and difficult to heat with the high ceilings. Maintenance a nightmare, they really were not a solution for social housing.
    There was never going to be enough replacements, and Curo recently were halted in the Foxhill area of Bath. I’m not saying that newer homes are not better in many ways, but it seemed sort of lost in the actual plan of what happens next.
    I suggested, a committee for new home provision and a type of watch dog. My comments are within the same view of many others, quick fixes are not working, that’s obvious.
    In Bristol, they are converting containers into small homes for the vulnerable street people. Again, another complex issue, many have dependency on various substances, they are open to being vulnerable. Saying that, there are now success stories. Lives turning around.

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