Homelessness is uncomfortable topic for many. It highlights the weaknesses in our approach to social justice and can indeed be regarded as a failure of society as whole. Homelessness, an umbrella term that refers to those who are rough sleepers, sofa surfers or are in temporary and emergency accommodation, is on the rise. Figures show the number of rough sleepers is growing year on year. Since 2010 there has been a 134% increase with a growth of 16% between 2016/2017. All Conservatives share the view that one homeless person is one to many. Historically government intervention has failed to address this challenging issue. But resolving these inequalities is a central focus of this government. It is taking the lead in prevention and putting forward a policy agenda to tackle this issue.
The government has already pledged to develop and build a new generation of social housing. This will be funded by the affordable housing budget being increased from £2 billion to £9 billion. It is estimated that this capital investment could be utilised to build 250,000 new properties that could potentially be offered at below market rents to those in most need. Ministers have also confirmed plans to establish greater certainty for local authorities by 2020 by setting long term rent deals to help deliver this new supply of homes. It is vital that these new homes are developed for those who are homeless and in the greatest need.
Ministers have also announced measures to protect those who rent properties from unscrupulous landlords. Initiatives include requiring all landlords to sign up to the redress scheme which will allow tenants greater scope to challenge landlords and with time, will professionalise the sector and protect vulnerable tenants.
The rollout of universal credit has been a difficult hurdle for the government. The original six-week wait has been reduced to five to ease the burden on families. Ministers also decided that current welfare payments would remain in place for two weeks after the rollout. Advanced payments were also put in place, allowing individuals to access payments within five days. This detailed approach is designed to mitigate any potential negative impact that universal credit could initially have on those who economically unstable.
Although it is not a problem that can be resolved over night, it is evidently clear that this government is committed to addressing the issue of homelessness in our society. This article has only highlighted a handful of approaches within the government’s progressive program of reform, including increasing the social housing stock, protecting vulnerable tenants and mitigating against the impact of universal credit. If we continue on this path, working with those most in need, there is no reason why we cannot reduce and ultimately eradicate homelessness.