Why is it that when Governments talk about issues that need to be addressed they are “complex”? When if you ask the man in the street, the issues are very simple it seems.
Let’s take for a start the new initiative to reduce homelessness. We are told by Housing Secretary James Brokenshire that the issues behind the increase in people sleeping on the streets are quite complex, citing instability in the private rental market. Why is the Government mentioning the private rental market? The private rental market does not care about people sleeping on the street. Communities should not have to rely on private landlords out to make as much money as they can, to house those who are in need.
The private rental market has done more to increase the number of homeless people than almost anything else. Between slum landlords, rising rents and second home ownership for holiday lets, private rentals have reduced the number of properties available to those looking to rent a home.
The population of the UK is increasing, and the provision of social and affordable housing is decreasing. The fallacy of affordable homes being the answer to local housing needs to be addressed.
The government definition of affordable housing states it must be provided at a level at which the mortgage payments on the property should be more than would be paid in rent on council housing, but below market levels. Many starter homes are being advertised as affordable because they are 20% less than market value. When market value is starting at £200,000 for a one bedroom flat, reducing the price to £160,000 is not going to make it any more affordable to a young couple working in a supermarket.
Let’s not forget the ability for deals to be done with local authorities to receive payments rather than have developers build affordable homes anywhere near the luxury apartments and villas they are building. Do local authorities use this money to build affordable homes? Of course not, the money is not enough to build with when it would be a stand alone development. Therefore very often the money is absorbed into other pots and affordable housing quotas are left as numbers on a spreadsheet rather than homes in the community.
When property for sale is snapped up by developers and people looking for homes don’t have a chance, what is the way forward? When affordable homes are out of reach of the majority of those who need them, what is the way forward?
The quickest and easiest way for any Government to reduce homelessness would be to take the profiteering out of property rentals. Build social housing that will ensure safe and affordable accommodation for anyone who requires it. Make this long term investment in the future of our communities.
This would give employment for the construction industry, homes for those who have been priced out of the market and long term income for local authorities. Given the ever increasing amount of money paid out in housing benefits which goes into the pockets of private landlords, surely building their own housing stock would be more cost effective?