In the 120-page study, co-authored by academics at the University of York and Heriot-Watt University, Crisis highlights figures released over the summer that show councils have reported 44,160 people accepted as homeless and placed in social housing, an increase of 10% on the previous year and the first increase in almost a decade.
Last year another 189,000 people were also placed in temporary accommodation – such as small hotels and B&Bs – to prevent them from becoming homeless, an increase of 14% on the previous year.
There\’s two directly contradictory ways of reading these numbers.
1) My word, homelessness is a really serious problem, we\’d better spend lots more money on it.
2) My word, aren\’t we doing well in dealing with homelessness?
Here\’s what most would think of as true homelessness:
In London, rough sleeping, the most visible form of homelessness, rose by 8% last year. Strikingly, more than half of the capital\’s 3,600 rough sleepers are now not British citizens: most are migrants from eastern Europe who cannot find work and, unable to get benefits or return home, are left to fend for themselves on the streets.
That\’s not, by the way, the number sleeping rough on any one night. That\’s the annual total:
3975 people slept rough at some point in London during 2010/11, an increase of 8 per cent on the previous year\’s total of 3673 and of more than a thousand since 2005/06.
Note that I\’m using the numbers that Crisis themselves report, as with the original news piece.
So, we\’ve some 225,000 people who were at risk of becoming what we would all agree is truly homeless over the year and all of those bar some few thousand (half of whom are not citizens and thus not eligible for help) are helped by the system to avoid this true homelessness.
Yes, I\’m sure we could make this system better but perhaps the first point to be made is how well the system is in fact dealing with matters. A 1% failure rate is truly miraculous for anything government run after all.
And as anyone who has ever even looked into those rough sleeping numbers knows, absent booze, drugs and mental illness there would be hardly any of that at all.
The charity says that the government needs to reverse cuts to housing benefit and invest urgently in new housing.
No, this does not follow. What does follow is that if swathes of the population cannot afford housing then the government should be trying to make housing cheaper. Making housing cheaper does not necessarily mean spending more money on housing: it implies making housing cheaper.
Which is simple enough to do, the government could just stop doing some of the things that it is already doing. Like liberalise the planning system. The right to build on a specific plot of land is the most expensive part of a house in the south after all. Reduce that cost and you\’ll reduce the cost of housing.