Rough sleeping has doubled since 2010, predicted to increase by a further 76%

The stock response from government, local and national, when challenged about a current or impending problem, is to say how much money it is spending to resolve the matter.

This is true about the rough sleeping crisis. The number of people sleeping rough has doubled since 2010, according to a report in the Financial Times in January. And today (10th August 2017), the national charity, Crisis, has forecast that rough sleeping will rise by a further 76% by 2026. (This forecast is based on research conducted on behalf of Crisis by Heriot-Watt University).

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “Alongside investing £550 million to 2020 to address the issue, we’re implementing the Homelessness Reduction Act, which will require councils to provide early support to people at risk of becoming homeless. There’s more to do and ministers will set out plans shortly.”

It is easy for someone to quote eye-watering sums but given the track record since 2010 we need something that will inspire confidence. The doubling in rough sleeping numbers is a direct result of government policies. I look forward to the government’s plans being published. The plans need to be more than worthy statements of intent.

The government’s plans need to be SMART. They need to set out specific measures that will be implemented, what difference these measures will make, and when the positive impact will be seen. A vague date like 2026 is no good. Most of the Ministers around today will not even be a footnote in history by 2026.

I would suggest, amongst other things, the following:

  • The appointment of a Minister for Rough Sleeping who will remain in her/his post until the next general election so they can be judged on their record
  • Properly fund local authorities to meet their homelessness duties
  • Reverse the drop in investment for affordable homes, specifically homes that will be made available to homeless households and individuals
  • Reverse the cuts to housing benefit
  • Reintroduce direct housing benefit payments to landlords to build confidence especially in the private rented sector
  • Put funding for homelessness services on a proper footing,

It should shame us all, not least those in power, that rough sleeping numbers have doubled since 2010. Today’s report from Crisis should shame government into urgent action.

Some wise words about the housing crisis from an unlikely source?

The government’s announcements this week about housebuilding have not got me very excited since the majority of the funding has gone for home ownership ‘products’. A small percentage of the new homes to be built will be at affordable rents (the definition of ‘affordable’ is rent at 80% of the market which make them unaffordable to many).

What is equally worrying is the use of private developers whose interests are not, and will never be, the mass development of homes at prices/rents that people can afford.

The fact is that private developers, left to their own devices, will not build enough to meet demand, especially when the greatest need is for affordable rented housing in urban areas. It is not in their interest to do so, since the result would be lower house prices and land values, eroding their profitability.

Any solution to Britain’s housing crisis must include a bigger contribution from the public sector. Rather than coercive measures, the focus should be on enabling local authorities and housing associations that wish to build social housing.

I will come clean here. The two paragraphs (immediately above) are spot on but are not my own words but lifted directly from that well-known leftie newspaper, the Financial Times, in an editorial piece on 5th January.

i initially thought that the FT was an unlikely source for these words, but on reflection a paper like the FT can take a long term view about what is needed for a healthy economy, and it can see that the economy will suffer by allowing the housing crisis to worsen.

If we are to tackle the ever-growing housing crisis, we must build the homes that are needed – and that are homes to rent that people can actually afford – not pour public money into subsidising private ownership. That might be a successful electoral ploy but it will create a more uneven society.

Sunshine and joy for a Monday morning: cuts and rumours of cuts

Last week there were three reports of proposals from the Chancellor, George Osborne, that will cause concern for housing associations and charities.  It appears that one was unfounded, the second was abandoned, but the third remains a possibility.

The first, reported in the Financial Times, hinted that the Chancellor was intending to sell off £44 billion in loans and grants to housing associations.  It appears that the FT got it wrong, and that the Chancellor has authorised the sale of the mortgages which were acquired by the Government during the financial crisis. Originally owned by Northern Rock, the mortgage assets are being sold by UK Asset Resolution (UKAR) to capital management firm, Cerberus.

The second related to possible cuts in Universal Credit. The Chancellor was looking to identify savings as mitigation to his planned £4.4bn cuts to tax credits after the House of Lords urged the Government to think again on the reforms.

Iain Duncan Smith allegedly threatened to resign as Work and Pensions Secretary if Universal Credit was cut and he appears to have won the day. Claimants currently lose 65p in every extra pound they earn as benefits are withdrawn. If Universal Credit had been cut by £2 billion, claimants would have lost 75p in every extra pound.

A new rumour that the savings will be found from the housing benefit bill would, if true, further exacerbate the housing crisis in London and the south east.  In Brighton and Hove, less than 1.5% of homes in the private rented sector are now within the current amounts covered by housing benefit.  Housing benefit can be cut but only if there is investment in the building of new homes with social rents.

The third and final rumour, yet to be denied, is that the Chancellor is planning a £320 million raid on the Big Lottery. If true this 48 per cent cut would have very serious consequences for many charities that increasingly rely on the Big Lottery to fund the work that they do. Hopefully it is just a rumour that rings alarm bells in the un up to the spending review.

Oh, yes, there is also the spending review with the promise of more pain …..

Oh, what a happy start to the week!