The independent London newspaper

We can’t go back to the old housing crisis

22 May, 2020

Something has to change. Photo: Debbie Humphry

• I AM local resident and a housing officer in an inner-city borough and the letter you printed struck a chord, (We need action on empty homes and to protect the homeless, May 15).

On March 27 the government instructed homelessness managers and rough sleeping teams to accommodate the homeless within 72 hours.

Given that most homeless offices had closed their doors at 4pm until the Monday morning this was never going to be achievable.

The closure of day centres and hostels during lockdown has increased daily living problems for the homeless and in some cases reduced links to services.

Hotels and B&Bs are run by reception staff not specialist workers and placing people with – and indeed without – complex needs into this type of accommodation guarantees high levels of abandonment and evictions.

From the onset there has been a lack of clarity and an ad-hoc approach in communicating provision of emergency accommodation from both the government and, sadly, within some local authorities.

The indications are that Islington Council moved quickly on this.

It took weeks after March 27 before a clear instruction was issued to ignore procedures which normally deny whole swathes of the population access access to emer­gency accommodation.

Many people are accommodated for the duration of the lockdown only. Where do they go afterwards?

This is an ideal opportunity for housing associations to offer their empty properties to the council instead of selling them off.

Indeed, the barriers to councils requisitioning empty properties should be lifted forthwith.

The pandemic has provided respite for some single and childless couples but their only route is into the private sector, often out of borough and into long term poverty, yet these are the same people losing their jobs as agency workers or risking their lives as key workers on low pay, zero-hours contracts.

We cannot go back to the same old housing crisis. Something has to change.



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