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‘Chronic shortage’ of social housing holding back homeless work

A ‘chronic shortage of social-rented housing’ is hampering efforts to tackle homelessness, according to a leading charity.

Speaking last week in front of the housing, communities and local government select committee, Shelter policy manager Deborah Garvie said ‘you cannot relieve homelessness unless you have a home to offer somebody’.

‘In the areas where homelessness is most prevalent, there are no suitable, affordable homes for people to go into, as a result of a chronic shortage of social-rented housing, which is really the only suitable, affordable option for a lot of families,’ she told MPs.

Ms Garvie was appearing as part of an inquiry into the Homelessness Reduction Act, which became law in 2017 and was implemented by the Government and local authorities in 2018.

The Act places new duties on local authorities in England to prevent and relieve homelessness through improved intervention at an earlier stage.

‘We generally find that there have been huge efforts by local authorities to implement the Act by recruiting staff, changing their systems and making sure people are trained,’ said Ms Garvie.

But the chief executive of another homelessness charity Crisis, Jon Sparkes told the committee that overall awareness about the Act itself is ‘low’.

‘There is a variety of practice across local authorities from those who are implementing a full culture change, redesigning their services, developing new services and those who are simply layering the Act on top of existing services,’ said Mr Sparkes.

‘So. there are some areas where the implementation of the Act can improve,’ he added.

‘When we come to impact, we are in a position where 51% of the people we surveyed are left feeling positive about the options they now have, so 49% are not. That is about solutions, rather than the treatment. It talks to the wider structural issues causing homelessness in the first place and therefore reducing the number of options people have when they leave, albeit a better experience.

‘If you do not have sufficient social housing being built, you rely on the market to take the strain of tackling homelessness, and you detach the amount of money you are spending from that market, there is a clear problem there,’ he added.

‘Since 2011, that break has been made between local housing allowances and the market. Whether it is the Shelter analysis or the Crisis and CIH analysis, it leads to the same conclusions as to what is affordable and what is not, and to the answer being at about the 30th percentile of the market.’

Photo by Leroy Skalstad (Pixabay)

Jamie Hailstone
Senior reporter - NewStart

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