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Homelessness and the housing shortage

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If you Google/Bing those phrases, you end up with lots of statements like this (from Crisis):

A shortage of homes and high rents both cause homelessness.

Statements like this have always struck me as fatuous, based on the most tenuous of links. They have both got to do with ‘housing’ but that’s about all.

For example, there are some people in the UK who have barely enough to cover the essentials, but do we exhort farmers, clothes manufacturers, power stations to produce more? Do we say that people can’t cover the cost of essentials because food, clothes, power prices are too high?

And while superficially a housing shortage causes high rents, what about all the vacant and derelict housing? If rents were even higher, wouldn’t the owners be motivated to get them done up and back on the market?

‘Homelessness’ clearly exists, it’s a serious issue, but it is difficult to define and there are endless categories and degrees. Rough sleepers are clearly homeless; then there are people on welfare who have been evicted and are living in temporary accommodation; people who are couch surfing at friends’ homes or who have moved back to their parents; tenants whose leases are about to expire who have to live with the stress of finding somewhere new sharpish; people sharing a flat who can’t stand each other any more etc etc.

Where exactly do you draw the line and say which people are truly homeless and which ones are on the other side of an arbitrary line? What about a youngster who has run away from home? Maybe their parents are violent shits who have more or less thrown them out (I’d consider them truly homeless), but what if they ran away from reasonably nice parents just to teach them a lesson (voluntarily homeless)?

And there are also endless reasons why somebody is in the mess they are in. There are the Ds: drugs, divorce, debt, dole. Ex-military and people who grew up in foster homes or care homes often struggle. There’s no point apportioning blame, there’s a sliding scale between ‘it’s your own fault’ and ‘that was a string of really unlucky events’. Girlfriends chuck out their boyfriends, people lose their jobs, people run up rent arrears etc. And once you have no fixed address (somewhere to shower and put on clean clothes), it’s difficult getting back into work to rustle up a rent deposit, get a fixed address etc in a vicious circle.

Given the infinite permutations of personal predicaments, does anybody really think that adding a few hundred thousand new dwellings every year would make a difference, or that all the ‘homeless’ would magically find somewhere to live if rents only came down by a few percent?

To sum up, these are social or personal issues and not really related to housing supply or rent levels at all. So the only solution is political i.e. build more social housing (always a good thing) for the hardship cases, regardless of their ability to pay.

Which would ameliorate things, but it’s a moving target. If the council says that anybody who has been homeless (as defined) for more than a certain period gets bumped up the priority list, then wouldn’t some people make themselves voluntarily homeless (as defined) for a period in order the jump the queue? That could lead to an apparent increase in the number of people who are officially homeless.

This is just something that has been bugging me for decades, all I can say is that the problem is huge and vague and that there are no easy answers (and I’m not offering any).



Source: http://markwadsworth.blogspot.com/2021/07/homelessness-and-housing-shortage.html


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