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Hannah Gousy @HannahGousy Policy and Public Affairs Manager

What Housing Crisis?!

We were pretty shocked to see Simon Jenkins’ article in the Guardian on the housing crisis ‘myths’.

For most readers, his arguments would have felt completely out of touch with the reality of living in poor conditions, or struggling with excessively high housing costs.

At Crisis we see the very worst effects of the housing crisis on people’s lives and there’s a few issues that we felt we couldn’t let go.

The housing crisis has led to a huge increase in homelessness  

The article equated ‘housing need’ to the number of people living in temporary accommodation (60,000 households). We know however, that there are far higher numbers of people in need of a home than simply those living in temporary accommodation.

Since 2010 the number of households accepted as homeless by their council has shot up by 36%. These people will be entitled to temporary accommodation.  In addition however, every year a further quarter of a million people approach their local authority for help because they are facing homelessness. These people won’t necessarily be entitled to an offer of settled accommodation, let alone temporary accommodation. In terms of housing need, rough sleeping has risen by 55% in the last five years. The government estimates that there are 2,744 rough sleepers on any one night in England. These figures however, are just a snapshot taken on one night and fall well short of what local agencies report over the course of a year.

Analysis from Crisis’ latest Homelessness Monitor England report shows that the huge rise in homelessness can be explained as a result of a host of welfare cuts, including to housing benefit, and the chronic lack of affordable housing.

Private renting doesn’t provide people with decent, affordable, safe and secure homes

Choosing not to live in the private rented sector is not an irrational decision, as the article implied.  And of course, we know that for the vast majority of people, they simply don’t have the option to live anywhere else.

Far too many people are living in appalling and overcrowded conditions. Almost a third of privately rented homes fail to meet the government’s decent homes standard- significantly more than any other tenure. And this isn’t just a problem for Londoners. Our Skylight centres, which deliver homelessness services to people across the country, tell us of the extreme difficulties of helping people to find good quality private rented accommodation. The government’s own stats on the decent homes standard show that you are disproportionality more likely to live in poor conditions if you live in a rural area, as well as in cities.

Compared to other areas in Western Europe, tenants in England have very little security of tenure. This means that for many, they can be evicted from their homes with very little notice and the landlord doesn’t have to prove that they are at fault. Against a backdrop of high demand, rising rents, and cuts to housing benefit, this has meant that the loss of a home in the private rented sector is now the leading cause of homelessness.

It was good to see that our frustration was shared with other readers, many of them sharing their experiences of living in poor private rented accommodation, people facing eviction and people waiting on long lists for the ever depleting stock of council homes. I think it’s pretty safe to say that this article hasn’t done a good job of convincing anyone that we’re not experiencing a housing crisis.