It didn’t need a report by the National Audit Office to tell us that homelessness is rising, writes Borough Council Leader, David Ellesmere.
The increase in the number of people sleeping rough is obvious in Ipswich and towns and cities across the country.
Labour in Ipswich, has been building new homes, but the government is making it increasingly difficult for us.
The NAO report gives us precise figures though. The number of households in temporary accommodation has increased by more than half since 2011 to 77,000. The number of people sleeping rough has more than doubled to 4,000 since 2010.
The NAO identifies a wide range of factors that have led to this increase.
Private sector tenancies ending is now the single biggest cause of homelessness. This is a mushc bigger problem because more people are now renting from private landlords.
Private tenancies have become significantly less affordable as rent increases outstrip wage rises.
The NAO couldn’t be clearer about Government’s role in creating this crisis.
Rents are shooting up because we are not building enough houses, especially social housing. The Government has massively cut the amount of money it gives to Housing Associations to build new homes for rent. It is actively trying to stop councils like Ipswich building new social housing.
Despite huge rent rises, the Government is freezing Local Housing Allowance rates for four years. The Supporting People programme which provides help for vulnerable people to stay in their homes has been cut drastically.
Not mentioned in the NAO report, but which must be having an effect, are cuts in drug and mental health services and an increasingly punitive benefits sanctions regime.
The cost of this failure is huge: £1.15billion a year spent by councils on homelessness services.
The Government must support a huge programme of social house building. We’ve shown it can be done in Ipswich if the Government will let us.
Introducing 3 year housing tenancies, as Labour proposes, would reduce the number of people kicked out of their homes when their tenancy ends.
Cuts to Supporting People and drug and alcohol treatment services must be reversed and NHS mental health services properly funded.
That would at least start to help reverse the tidal wave of human misery that the Government’s housing policies have unleashed.