Originally published as a column for Inside Housing on August 3.
If the Right to Buy has a birthplace it’s a terraced house at 39 Amersham Road in Harold Hill, near Romford in Essex.
True, the sale was the 12,000th rather than the first and 11 August, 1980 was not the actual birth date of the policy either.
However, both have come to symbolise the Right to Buy because this was the place and that was the day that Margaret Thatcher came for tea.
The former prime minister joined the Patterson family, who had bought their home for £8,315 after 18 years as tenants of the Greater London Council (GLC).
Two things came together to remind me of that photo opportunity this week: first, archive footage used in the film Dispossession (full review to follow soon); and second a good investigation by the local paper of hidden homelessness in the area.
Originally published as a column for Inside Housing on July 24.
Two reports over the weekend put housing insecurity firmly under the spotlight.
On Saturday the Local Government Association (LGA) made all the headlines when it highlighted the 120,000 children currently in temporary accommodation.
That’s not a new figure (it comes from homelessness statistics published a month ago) but that does not make it any less shocking. And the LGA puts it into real perspective by pointing out that the increase since 2014 is the equivalent of one secondary school full of children every month.
On Sunday, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) published research looking at where much of that demand for temporary accommodation is coming from: evictions and forced moves from rented homes.
The report found that 40,000 tenants were evicted from their homes by landlords in 2015 and that private landlords are now carrying out more evictions than councils and housing associations.
That may not be much of a claim to fame for ‘social’ landlords but the rise in evictions reflects both the growth of the private rented sector and increasing use of Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions by private landlords.
Originally published on December 15 on my blog for Inside Housing
If 2016 proves to be the year that the government finally woke up to the homelessness crisis, official figures released on Thursday show its true scale.
The latest statistics from the Department for Communities and Local Government show 14,930 households were accepted as homeless in the June to September quarter. The good news is that this is down 1% on the previous three months. The bad news is that it’s up 2% on 2015 and 45% on 2010.
Remember this is only the most visible part of the crisis – the families who are accepted as homeless and in priority need by local authorities – and that it is just the start of a wait for permanent accommodation.
That wait goes on for those already accepted as homeless. The figures also show that 74,630 households, including 117,520 children, were in temporary accommodation at the end of September. That’s up 9% on 2015 and 45% on 2010.
And the increases are greatest in the worst and least permanent forms of temporary accommodation. There were 6,680 households in bed and breakfasts, including 3,390 families with children: up 13% on 2015 and more than five times the figure in 2010.
Most shockingly of all, there were 1,300 families with children who had been in bed and breakfasts for more than the six-week legal limit. That’s up 24% on the same quarter in 2015 and is an incredible 13 times higher than in the quarter before the election of the coalition government in 2010.
Originally published on October 24 on my blog for Inside Housing
Whether we are talking about benefits or housing, a new Ken Loach film and a BBC documentary expose a system that’s failing. In the face of growing demand and shrinking provision, the safety net has gaping holes. Rising homelessness and the queues at foodbanks are the symbols of this. The basics of life – shelter, food and warmth – can no longer be taken for granted.
Seen from the outside this is obvious and so are the answers. Return to provision based on need. Build more social housing. Abandon the divisive rhetoric of strivers and scroungers. Follow the founding principles of the welfare state.
Most people working on the inside will agree with this. But they also have to work within the system as it is and they know that there is little chance of real political change any time soon. This dual reality is perhaps most obvious in the social/business divide within housing associations but it exists right across the public and voluntary sectors too.
Watching I, Daniel Blake and No Place to Call Home over the last few days, these divides were obvious. One is a documentary, the other a film, but both would claim to be revealing truths about life when the safety net fails. But they also beg a less obvious question for people working within the system: how do you know when you’ve crossed the line between doing your best in an impossible situation and making that situation worse? One answer, I’d suggest, lies in the language we use.
The latest homelessness figures confirm some disturbing trends over the last five years in why people lose their home and what happens to them once they get help.
The statistics for England published by the DCLG on Wednesday run up to the end of 2014/15 and so allow the record the coalition to be assessed for the first time. The headline measure of households accepted as homeless (unintentionally homeless and in priority need) rose 36 per cent between 2009/10 (the year before the coalition took power) and 2014/15 to 54,000.
But this figure is heavily influenced by other government policies, not just the coalition’s reforms of the system but the last Labour government’s too. For example, the acceptances figure was more than double what it is now in the early 2000s, before prevention and options approaches were widely adopted by local authorities.
As the UK Housing Review briefing pointed out on Monday, combined acceptances and prevention cases (not published yet) are likely to top 300,000 in 2014/15 compared to just over 200,000 in 2009/10. And even these figures take no account of hidden homelessness, whether it’s overcrowding or concealed households or single people and childless couples who do not have priority or rough sleeping.