We have a housing crisis. Here’s how to fix it

Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Ipswich Borough Council leader DAVID ELLESMERE writes about what needs to happen to solve Britain’s housing crisis.

David Ellesmere. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

David Ellesmere. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

There is no doubt that Britain has a serious housing crisis.

Nearly 5,000 people are estimated to have slept on our country’s streets in 2017, three times the number in 2010. Many more are sleeping in hostels or on sofas.

A whole generation of people will never be able to afford their own homes.

Nowhere near enough new homes – and especially social houses – are being built.

It has got so bad that even this government realises it must do something.

Over the past week it has published a Rough Sleeping Strategy and a Social Housing Green Paper published.

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Both of them are intended to show that the government recognises the problem and takes it seriously.

Unfortunately, they do precisely the opposite.

The measures put forward are timid and there is little or no recognition that government policies are causing many of the problems.

£100million to tackle rough sleeping sounds good (although, spread over the 10 years of the strategy, it is not particularly impressive) but the communities secretary was forced to admit that none of this was new money and at least half of it has already been announced.

Not a single penny of new money was announced for more social housing.

The Rough Sleeping Strategy was prepared without reference to the Department for Work and Pensions or the NHS but the government’s benefit policies, in particular Universal Credit, along with government cuts to drug treatment and mental health services are a major contributory factor in the increase of homelessness.

The most useful proposals are where the government is scrapping its own ill-thought out policies such as the forced sale of “high value” council houses and the ending of secure tenancies.

Government support for new council housing is restricted to “high price” areas. But every council in the country has got thousands of people on its housing waiting list.

The government should set a target of 100,000 new social houses a year, lift artificial borrowing restrictions on councils and significantly increase the amount of funding for new social housing.

Unless this happens, everything in the two papers is just tinkering around the edges and will make no difference to Britain’s housing crisis.

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