Shelter’s chief executive has called for the building of more social housing to remedy rising levels of poverty and homelessness and the ever-increasing cost of the £21bn Housing Benefit bill.
Speaking at Homes UK 2019, Polly Neate stated that social housing is the “only moral way” for the UK to deliver the homes it needs and reduce poverty and destitution.
She said: “I think we’re at a tipping point now…particularly in our major cities…with the sheer scale of people sleeping on the streets – nobody is born to die in that situation.
“We are seeing a tsunami of need increasing in both size and complexity as public services are melting away.
“It’s a national emergency with a clear solution.”
It’s a crisis that sees around 800,000 private renters unable to put aside just £10 per month toward a deposit for their own home, and one that saw 726 people die on the streets of England and Wales in 2018.
The cost of all this, said Neate – who also urged for the thawing and increase of the Benefit Cap – is “incalculable”.
Neate delivered her speech at a session that looked at solutions to the ‘affordable housing crisis’.
Currently, ‘affordable rent’ is defined as 80% of the typical market rent. Neate said it’s a definition that needs to be changed.
“It has to reflect what people can actually afford,” she said. “It shouldn’t be pegged to the market…It’s only affordable to those who can afford their own home, anyway.”
However, Neate added that the government will need to put money into social housing if the housing sector is to not only solve the affordable homes crisis, but build more social homes and put an end to rising levels of poverty and homelessness.
“That’s the big political ask, and that’s where we need the social housing sector united if this is to happen.
“Social housing is the answer – surely a long-term plan is an argument for starting it as soon as possible.
“We need to talk about it and keep talking about it…and accept that it’s the only answer to this national emergency.”