Shelter chief executive Polly Neate strengthened the case for more social housing in calling chancellor Sajid Javid out over his calculations on homelessness numbers – exposed as not adding up.
“When the chancellor of the exchequer says that homelessness has halved since 2008, it’s important to highlight this as inaccurate,” said Neate.
In a round of interviews, Javid said homelessness reached its peak in 2008 under the last Labour government and had fallen by half since.
By that logic Javid maintained Labour was responsible for the massive rise in homelessness.
His ‘logic’ was humiliatingly exposed by subsequent fact checks.
Tory central office was forcing into saying Javid “misremembered” and had in fact meant a 2003 peak under Labour”.
Though thankful that the housing emergency had finally taken top billing during the election campaign, Neate used a Guardian column to reminded that just this week, Shelter revealed 135,000 children in Britain are homeless – the highest number in 12 years.
Rough sleeping, the most obvious manifestation of homelessness had, she said, risen by 165% since 2010.
Meanwhile, hidden homelessness sees some 85,000 households placed in temporary accommodation.
In a direct swipe at Javid, Neate said: “These statistics are shocking, but getting them right is vital if we are to understand the challenges we face.
“That’s why it’s so disappointing when senior politicians get them wrong.
“So when the chancellor of the exchequer says that homelessness has halved since 2008, it’s important to highlight this as inaccurate.”
The number of households in temporary accommodation did not peak in 2008, as Javid claimed, but in 2004.
Since that peak, they declined to their lowest point at the end of 2010.
Since then, the number has increased again, by 77%.with rough sleeping increasing even more.
“Every day our frontline workers see the devastating reality of these numbers on real people’s lives, and the fact that homelessness is getting worse, not better,” said Neate.
“For whoever forms the next government, solving this emergency must be a top priority.
“And that’s why it is encouraging that every party is now engaging with housing in this election,” said Neate.
“However, we cannot be complacent because we know that at its heart any plan to solve homelessness must also include social housing.
Social housing is secure and genuinely affordable, it’s what’s needed to end rough sleeping, to get households out of cramped temporary accommodation and to offer hope to the millions of young families and older people trapped in expensive private renting,” she said.
Last year, less than 6,300 new social rent homes were delivered in England, with building long stuck in historic lows.
Shelter has called on all parties to commit to delivering at least 90,000 new social homes a year over the course of the next parliament – as a first step to delivering the 3m new social rent homes over 20 years that Shelter’s independent commission on social housing identified as being necessary.
Even after 12 December we will continue to push for these much-needed homes. We simply can’t tackle homelessness without them.
The Chancellor’s faulty figures were exposed by fact checks like this from Channel 4.
Sajid Javid said homelessness reached its peak in 2008 under the last Labour government and since then had dropped down to a half – so Labour was responsible for the “massive rise” in homelessness.
The Tories subsequently told Channel 4 FactCheck that Javid “misremembered the years, he meant the peak in 2003 under Labour”.
The Tory excuse took the “down by almost a half” claim as based on official MHCLG figures “applying the statutory definition of homelessness, the number of homeless people in England has fallen 57 per cent from 135,590 in 2003 to 57,890 in 2017”.
Getting the dates wrong is seen as significant because Javid went on to say that “it’s Labour that was responsible for the massive rise in homelessness”.
Yet when we look at the dataset Javid was referring to, FactCheck found Labour oversaw all of the decline in statutory homelessness that Javid gave the Tories credit for.
Statutory homelessness was 135,590 in 2003, and fell to 42,390 by the time Labour left office in 2010.
That means Labour presided over a 69 per cent drop in statutory homelessness in their final seven years in government.
FactCheck found that the early years of the last Labour government (1997 to 2003) saw statutory homelessness rise by some 33% but said that to characterise the Blair-Brown era as “responsible for the massive rise in homelessness” when the rise was followed by a much greater fall during their tenure is misleading.
The same dataset reveals that since the Tories took office in 2010, statutory homelessness has risen by 36%.
FactCheck acknowledges myriad ways to measure homelessness, citing the example of government figures showing the number of rough sleepers has risen by 165% since 2010 – though these stats come with the caveat that the way they are collected has changed over time.