Rents and mortgages are going up. Bills are going up. Evictions are going up. Homelessness is going up – we are in a cost of living crisis.
High-quality, affordable and secure homes are a human right, and we will continue to knock on this door until everyone has access to one.
But we can’t ignore what’s happening in the country. Rishi Sunak is the new Prime Minister, and he is talking about ‘difficult decisions’ and ‘spending efficiencies’.
And here Shelter is, again, calling on the new prime minister to fix the housing emergency with a long list of expensive things:
- build social housing
- regulate social housing
- scrap Section 21 with a Renters Reform Bill
- restore housing benefits
The next government can’t afford all these things, right?
Wrong. It’s this thinking that has got us into this mess. What we want is for the government
to stick with their long-term commitments and invest in measures that will save money and help people stay in their homes.
The current issue with social and council housing
Here’s an example; over the last three decades, we have not invested in social and council housing. We have around 15,000 fewer social homes now than we did this time last year. And that loss has happened roughly every year since 1991.
Without council or social homes, local authorities struggle to help people who become homeless. Housing benefit is frozen while private rents have soared. Our new report shows the discrepancy between how much you receive for housing benefits and the cost of private rents. In short, it’s a lot.
If families who are homeless can’t afford to live in privately rented homes with help from housing benefits, councils have no choice but to house them in temporary accommodation which is expensive, unstable and extremely damaging to their health and wellbeing.
Currently, we’re spending £1.6 billion a year on temporary accommodation. This is an increase of 61% compared with five years ago. Around 120,000 children are growing up in temporary accommodation right now. And it’s not even temporary: more than two-thirds of families who are homeless with children have been living there for over a year.
Since we haven’t invested in social housing, private renters need housing benefits as a safety net against homelessness. The government spends £11.7 billion a year to support low-income private renters through housing benefits. While we have a housing emergency, this is a crucial investment in preventing homelessness. But to fix the housing emergency for good, the government must do better than paper over the cracks in a broken system.
Otherwise, it will keep people in unsuitable conditions, and it will continue to get more expensive.
Changes have to be made by the new prime minister
That’s why we want the new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to follow through with the conservative commitment to bring forward a Renters Reform Bill so renters have more security.
It’s why we want the new prime minister to stop homelessness in its track now, by restoring housing benefits so it covers at least the cheapest third of rents. We need the new prime minister to continue with the Bill to regulate social housing, so people in social housing are listened to, their homes are repaired, and we avoid future tragedies like Grenfell.
And finally, we want major investment in social housing. We want a new generation of high-quality social housing to provide a resilient and affordable foundation for people to build their lives around. This means developers building more affordable homes and making it cheaper for councils to build them. It also means more investment through the Affordable Homes Programme to build truly affordable social housing.