Ultimately, the answer is to build more homes for everyone
I am hoping to become the MP for Portsmouth South, a constituency which is one of the most densely-populated in the UK, and one with a number of housing challenges and pockets of deep poverty. Homelessness and the threat of it imposes huge stress on people, and it is one of the main sources of an MP’s casework.
Local authorities do have a duty to make housing available to the homeless, according to the priority of their need. As things stand, single homeless people are less of a priority than families for housing. This seems sensible at first, as those with children have particular need of housing and stability in their lives. But single people can be at risk precisely because they are on their own. They are at risk of isolation. Many people become homeless as a result of untreated mental health conditions and yet the current scheme puts the single homeless at the back of the queue.
Although this government has granted mental healthcare parity of esteem with physical conditions, there is a long history of discrimination and neglect to overcome and a big gap to close.
Ultimately, the answer is to build more homes for everyone. The housing market has been strangled over the last 20 years, because we stopped building homes. Only new building is going to free the market up. That means building on brown-field sites first, and regenerating our towns and cities, and not just sprawling on the green belts. It means local authorities have to have the vision and powers to tackle the issues – although they are under tight budgetary pressure at present, they also have a future to look forward to in which devolution of power and tax-raising away from central government is a real possibility.
That might seem like a strange thing for a candidate for Parliament to say, but really local housing markets and adult social care needs are best tackled by local authorities and the excellent third sector groups which operate locally. I wish them every success.
If you are a prospective parliamentary candidate and would like to write a blog for Crisis, please contact Helena Brice.