Tag Archives: public housing

Labour Party pledge to end homelessness

This post was written by Dr Paul Watt from Birkbeck’s Department of Geography, Environment and Development Studies, and was originally published on the letters pages of the Guardian.

london-448552_640Many readers will welcome the letter calling on the Labour party to pledge to end homelessness. But there are two causes of concern. First is the letter’s focus on the most visible aspect of homelessness, rough sleeping. It claims that “under the last Labour government, homelessness fell substantially”. Although true for rough sleepers, it is not true for the numbers in temporary accommodation, which more than doubled in England from 47,000 in 1998 to 100,000 in 2005 before eventually coming down to 50,000 in 2010. A policy focus on the much smaller numbers of rough sleepers will not address the problem of temporary accommodation.

Second, in order for a sustainable reduction in temporary accommodation numbers to occur, there will need to be two policy changes, one of which gets no mention and the second bottom billing. The unmentioned policy change is an improvement in private tenants’ security in order to make them less vulnerable to landlords’ rent increases and evictions – which is now a major cause of homelessness. The second policy change is concerted investment in new social housing, especially public housing – number five in the letter’s list of priorities. Unless a future Labour government gives top priority to new genuinely affordable social rental housing, the danger is that it will simply repeat the lamentable record on this issue of the 1997-2010 New Labour governments.