The next Government needs to move quickly on a long term plan to end the housing crisis. The Homes for Britain rally last month saw many people gather in Westminster to hear representatives from five main political parties. Beatrice Orchard, our Public Affairs Coordinator, was there.
The Homes for Britain campaign in March succeeded in uniting more than 2,300 people at a rally that highlighted to politicians that those affected by the housing crisis are a very large, very diverse group of people.
I am one of them. I recently moved out of London because I couldn’t afford the rising rents, and certainly couldn’t afford to buy a place. A Homes for Britain billboard poster has gone up next to my local station, reminding me again, if I needed it, that this makes me one of those feeling the impact of the housing crisis.
Homelessness is the very worst consequence of the housing crisis. I attended the Homes for Britain rally with St Mungo’s Broadway clients from London and Bristol, including Stuart. He told me he wanted housing stability and not “stupidity” from politicians. He wants to be able “to make a house a home.”
Like everyone else at the rally that day, we were campaigners for change. At the rally, five UK political parties, represented at cabinet level or above, backed the campaign ask to end the housing crisis within a generation. This means that we, alongside fellow Homes for Britain campaigners, will be urging the new Government to introduce measures to help get us to this goal.
For Stuart and my other companions at the rally, their priority is more genuinely affordable, rented accommodation so they can move on from homelessness.
Social housing is often a relatively secure, affordable move on option for our clients. However, there is a limited supply but high demand for social housing, especially in London.
The current estimate is that we need 80,000 new affordable homes a year. On this basis only half the homes we need have been built in recent years, even when taking into account homes for ‘affordable rent’ and affordable home ownership which are far from affordable for many on low incomes.
This means private rented sector (PRS) accommodation is often the only option for our clients who are ready to move on from our hostels and accommodation projects. The recent Rebuilding Lives study by academics at Kings College London found that homeless people who were resettled in the PRS fared worse than those who moved to social housing, in that they were more likely to have moved several times and/or become homeless again.
What do we hope the next Government will move quickly on, when it comes to ending the housing crisis?
Setting a clear target for the proportion of new housing that should be for social or ‘genuinely affordable’ rent. We think locally set affordable housing targets can lack ambition and are regularly undermined by developer appeals against the requirements set out in planning conditions.
Raising standards in the PRS. Poor property conditions, high and escalating rents and short tenancy agreements in the PRS create instability and can push people into repeat homelessness. We want to see adequate housing advice for tenants, the use of landlord accreditation and licensing schemes and longer tenancies, as outlined in Homeless Link’s recent manifesto to end homelessness
Increasing capital funding for affordable house building. Grant funding for affordable house building was cut by 60% in 2010 to £4.4 billion for 2011-2015. This has done serious damage to housing associations’ ability to deliver homes for social rent. We want to see more funding for affordable house building. Shelter is calling for an additional £1.22 billion per year over the next Parliament.
We believe everyone has the right to an affordable, decent home. Homelessness, however, continues to rise. In recent months, official figures have shown continued increases in homelessness. We urge the next Government to redouble efforts to tackle homelessness, build more housing and back tenants to prove their commitment to ending the housing crisis in a generation.
Help us spread the word for the Homes for Britain campaign.