Wednesday, 18 December 2013

“We need the Government to address the chronic lack of affordable housing, take real steps to improve the private rented sector and to urgently consider the impact its cuts to housing benefit are having.”

This time of year is particularly difficult for the homeless:
Crisis at Christmas · What we do · Crisis

Sudden rise in homelessness blamed on housing shortage and the 'bedroom tax'


The number of homeless people is rising sharply under the twin pressures of the shortage of housing and the impact of the Government's welfare reforms, according to a new study.
The Government’s own latest statistics show that 57,530 households were in temporary accommodation on September 30, an eight per cent rise on a year earlier. Some 2,100 families with children were in emergency B&B accommodation, the highest figure for a decade.
The spectre of homelessness is returning as housing and welfare rise up the political agenda. Labour has pledged to abolish the “bedroom tax” and Liberal Democrat MPs are increasingly anxious about its impact. There is concern that the Government’s Help to Buy scheme will inflate another housing bubble. To help supply match demand, Labour will promise at the 2015 election to double house-building to at least 200,000 a year by 2020.
Leslie Morphy, the chief executive of Crisis, said: “We keep hearing that the economy is on the mend. Yet as we watch our GDP figures slowly rise, cuts to housing benefit and woefully inadequate house building will keep pushing up homelessness. Shamefully, it is the poorest and most vulnerable that are bearing the brunt.
“We need the Government to address the chronic lack of affordable housing, take real steps to improve the private rented sector and to urgently consider the impact its cuts to housing benefit are having, particularly in the capital.”
Julia Unwin, chief Executive of JRF, said: “Homelessness is the tragic consequence of failures in our housing system and carries enormous cost for both the people facing destitution and society as a whole. To avoid these figures going in the wrong direction, we need to address the underlying causes of homelessness urgently. That means building the affordable homes this country desperately needs and providing a proper safety net for when people are unfortunate enough to fall on hard times.”
A separate survey by Inside Housing magazine showed that councils and housing associations are increasingly resorting to the threat of eviction.  
Kris Hopkins, the Housing Minister, said: "We have supported the national roll out of No Second Night Out to prevent persistent rough sleeping, and given councils greater freedoms to house people in private rented homes.
"On top this we have provided nearly £1bn for councils to reduce homelessness and support those affected, while delivering 170,000 more affordable homes since 2010. All this has meant statutory homelessness remains at a lower level than it was in 27 of the last 30 years.”

It is a problem in Devon:

Homeless in Devon 

Homelessness and, in particular, rough sleeping is often viewed as a problem which only exists in large cities. However, there is a significant number of people homeless and rough sleeping in Devon, not just in the larger urban areas such as Exeter and Plymouth, but also in the more rural and remote parts of the county. The South West along with London has the highest incidence of rough sleeping per 1,000 households. In a recent study in Exeter and North Devon a high number of rough sleepers were found to be on the autistic spectrum. 

Homelessness can have a considerable impact on an individual’s health and wellbeing. It is also a complex issue that crosses departmental and organisational boundaries, covering health, social care, housing, criminal justice systems and welfare services. 

Homelessness « Devon Health and Wellbeing

The Church in Exeter lists several helpful organisations, including:
Citizens' Advice Bureau in Sidmouth:
Citizens Advice Service East Devon
Housing Needs Section at the District Council:
East Devon District Council - Housing
www.exeter.anglican.org/assets/downloads/yourchurch_downloads/Serve Your Community/Homelessness/Homeless in Devon.pdf

The District Council has invested in new social housing in Axminster:
East Devon District Council - News
East Devon District Council - Devon Home Choice scheme
and in housing association flats in Sidmouth:
Futures Forum: Affordable housing in Sidmouth: DCH and EDDC

There has been encouragement in the Autumn Statement:
Autumn statement paves way for councils to build new homes | UK news | The Guardian
However, there is less social housing being built:
Ministers ‘breaking promise over new council homes’ - UK Politics - UK - The Independent
And the South-West might lose its social housing anyway:
Unease at Osborne's council housing sell-off if rural Westcountry areas picked clean | Western Morning News

Is the issue: 'Not enough affordable housing'?

Here’s an example. The Heygate Estate at the Elephant & Castle used to have over 1,500 council homes. They have now being demolished to make way for over 2,500 new homes. Southwark Council insists that 25 per cent will be “affordable”, but the number of social rented homes is just 79. How can this be?
Well, with no clear definition and a lot of fudging, anything is possible. So we get a plethora of “low-cost homes”, “intermediate homes”, “key workers”, “shared ownership” - sufficient to give anyone nightmares.
The Government did define one thing. It has stated that an “affordable rent” is “80 per cent of open market rent”.  This is an even faster moving feast, as rents in some parts of the country keep rising. 

What even is affordable housing? - Comment - Voices - The Independent
Conditions are right for the large-scale social housing that the UK urgently needs. Why wait? - Editorials - Voices - The Independent
It’s taken politicians long enough to realise the scale of the housing problem. Now, we must act quickly - Comment - Voices - The Independent
Housing double whammy: A whole generation ‘won’t be able to buy or rent a home’ - Home News - UK - The Independent

Going hungry in the Sid Valley is also an issue:
Food in the bank - Letters - Sidmouth Herald
St John’s School nets meaty food bank donation - Education - Sidmouth Herald
Sid Valley Food Bank demand is ‘frightening’ - News - Sidmouth Herald
Futures Forum: Poverty in Sidmouth: Sid Valley Food Bank: "demand has quadrupled in just a year"

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