Everyone In was one of the few success stories in housing policy this century but all that progress in tackling homelessness is about to go into reverse.
The stark warning in the latest Homelessness Monitor for England from Crisis is that levels of core homelessness will have gone up by a third between 2019 and 2024 if nothing changes.
If the reasons for the forecast are not hard to guess, the contrast with the progress made at the start of the pandemic when 37,000 people sleeping rough or at risk of doing so were given accommodation makes this even more depressing. So too the contrast between England and the continuing ambitions of devolved governments elsewhere in Britain to end homelessness altogether.
Rough sleeping was down 33 per cent and sofa surfing down 11 per cent in England in 2020 after that extraordinary initial effort under Everyone In but it soon morphed from a policy into branding for an initiative.
The result was that core homelessness (which means the most acute forms of homelessness including rough sleeping, sofa surfing and being in temporary accommodation) was also down 5 per cent on 2019 levels at 203,400 in 2020.
The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, another success story, also helped single homeless households, although the report points to weaknesses including continued lack of entitlement to accommodation for some groups (another issue being addressed elsewhere but not England).
So the good news is that the pandemic saw a welcome interruption in the upward trend in homelessness since 2012.
That’s backed up by the latest figures published this week showing that the number of rough sleepers fell for the fourth year in a row in the government’s latest annual snapshot survey – and by the repeal of the Vagrancy Act.
The bad news is that most of the support introduced during the pandemic has since been reversed, with the uplift withdrawn, LHA rates refrozen despite rising rents and mounting concern that evictions could rise sharply in 2022.Read the rest of this entry »
The package of building safety changes announced this week by Michael Gove represents an extraordinary shift on any number of different levels.
Whether it’s effectively banning developers from building anything if they fail to cooperate or rewriting the terms of tens of thousands of leasehold contracts, the amendments to the Building Safety Bill will fundamentally change the way that flats (at least those over 11m) are maintained and managed.
The package inevitably raises a whole series of questions that I’ll return to in a future column but for now I want to concentrate on what it says about the extent of the change in the government’s attitude towards the private sector in housing.Read the rest of this entry »
Originally written as a column for Inside Housing.
Whether you put it down to coincidence, cock-up or an acute sense of history the decision to launch the Levelling Up white paper on Groundhog Day looks singularly appropriate.
My day began with the Today programme’s report from Wakefield rather than Sonny & Cher on the radio but the effect was similar. It took me straight back to the late 1980s when I was reporting on regeneration plans for the same city.
That was after Margaret Thatcher’s famous ‘walk in the wilderness’ and promise on night she won the 1987 election that: ‘Tomorrow morning we must do something about those inner cities, because we want them too next time.’
Her government had spent the previous eight years destroying the traditional industries that provided the well-paid jobs in those same areas but now she would put things right. Regeneration programmes like City Challenge, Development Corporations and Estate Action duly followed.
Flash forward 35 years and, after winning many of the seats that eluded Mrs Thatcher, another Tory government is promising to ‘level up’ exactly the same areas. This after spending nine years slashing their local authority budgets.
And these are only two moments in a long history of attempts to rebalance the regional economies of the UK that date back to the 1920s.Read the rest of this entry »