The United Kingdom is facing a deep homeless crisis amidst deep cuts to local government spending and a severe lack of social housing.
Homelessness in the UK has risen by year on year since 2010 and the UK faces a housing crisis amidst deep cuts to public services. So it begs the question on whether the austerity driven policy of the Conservative led coalition has helped foster the conditions in which homelessness has risen by 55% since 2010, which is according to a survey conducted by the government.
The financial crash of 2008 and the subsequent bailout packages offered to banks by the government put the country in huge amounts of debt, with a total of £500 billion being made available. This caused a huge gap in the deficit meaning that subsequent reductions in the government’s spending had to be made. One way this was set out to be achieved is through cutting the amount of the government spends on welfare.
From the outset of the Conservative-led coalition begun to make swathing cuts in to welfare spending. Over their five years in office, around £18 billion of spending cuts were made. Now that the Conservative’s have formed a majority government, they will look to save an extra £12 billion, with housing benefits being a key target.
The Conservatives are attempting to narrow the criteria for claimants to be eligible to claim help paying for accommodation, with 18-21 year olds possibly being targeted and tenants of social housing being taxed for unused rooms (known as Bedroom Tax). Leading charities state that the current climate of where 1.8 million households are currently on the waiting list for social housing constitutes a homelessness crisis for the UK.
For someone to be classed as “homeless” in the UK, and so be eligible for help from the government, it means they are without “roof over their head”. While this clearly means people sleeping rough on the streets, it also includes people who are under threat of homelessness within the next 28 days, for reasons including eviction and being released from prison or hospital.
All these exacerbating factors have led to huge increases in the amount of both “rough sleepers” and those households who are seeking local council’s help in finding accommodation.
However, according to Homeless Link UK, just 17% of people who apply for homelessness are given a tenancy in social housing. The result of this is 1.8 million households are currently on the waiting list of what is known as “council housing”, highlighting the great deficit between what we have and what is needed.
John Bibby from Shelter UK explains why social housing is so important to those on low income wages.
With private sector rents reaching unprecedented levels, especially in London and the South East, a lack of social housing leaves many unable to live the area where they grew up and have resided all their lives.
With the government pledging even more cuts to welfare spending, it is unlikely that this problem is going to be solved within the next five years. However, it does have the potential to spiral out of control if rent prices continue to rise and their is little investment in social housing.