Homelessness could be ended ‘within a decade’ with £10bn of government investment, charity claims

'There have been arguments that simply providing more housing alone isn’t necessarily the principal issue in making it more affordable'

Jane Dalton
Sunday 10 June 2018 20:23 BST
Crisis says 236,000 people are living on the streets or in temporary housing
Crisis says 236,000 people are living on the streets or in temporary housing

Britain could end homelessness within a decade with a £10bn plan, which includes building at least 100,000 social homes each year for 15 years, according to a report by leading charity.

The paper, from the charity Crisis and backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, sets out precise government policies that it believes are needed to “end homelessness for good”.

The measures also include forcing prisons and hospitals by law to prevent people in their care from becoming homeless when they leave.

If the measures were adopted in full, everyone would have a stable home within 10 years, the report’s authors claim.

The plan, Everybody In: How to End Homelessness in Great Britain, is also endorsed by Dame Louise Casey, the former national homelessness “tsar”. It was drawn up with the help of the Chartered Institute of Housing, Heriot-Watt University, the National Housing Federation and accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), as well as frontline workers and people who have been homeless.

Under the proposals:

  • 100,500 social homes would be built each year for the next 15 years to meet the needs of both homeless people and those on low incomes
  • A national rollout of Housing First – a project that aims to find people homes and then offer them specialised long-term support – would benefit more than 18,000 people
  • Private renters would be given more rights and longer tenancies
  • Housing benefits would be raised to meet the cost of private renting
  • Hospitals, prisons, the care system and other parts of the state would be legally required to help prevent people leaving their care from becoming homeless
  • Job centres would have homelessness specialists

PwC has estimated the leading policies would cost £9.9bn over the next decade and deliver benefits worth £26.4bn, the report says. The estimate covers “the costs and benefits of solutions specifically related to homelessness, but not wider reforms that target broader low-income groups such as house-building and certain welfare reforms”.

Crisis believes there are 236,000 people in England, Scotland and Wales living on the streets, in cars or tents, in shelters or in “unsuitable” temporary accommodation. An average of three homeless people die every week on the streets, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has found.

Jeremy Smith, an expert in international urban development and co-director of the Prime Economics think tank, said the plan was highly ambitious and would require a major policy adjustment by the government.

“The issue is the shift in policy to creating large scale social housing,” he said. “There have been arguments that simply providing more housing alone isn’t necessarily the principal issue in making it more affordable.

“Do you go back to local authorities as part of this, for example? There’s no particular reason why it couldn’t be done but you’d have to shift the government paradigm.

“If you’re dealing with homelessness you have to have high ambitions and if you achieve part of it, it’s a success.”

The figure of £10bn was around 0.5 per cent of GDP and the sum of borrowing spread over years would be very little, he said.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: ”We are investing more than £1.2bn to tackle all forms of homelessness and just last week we announced £30m for councils to help boost the immediate support available to people living on the streets.

“We are also investing £9bn to build more affordable homes and are piloting the Housing First approach in three major regions.”

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