By Andrea Gilbert
The housing crisis in the UK is set to get worse as 95,000 households, including 120,000 children, are becoming stuck in temporary accommodation. There are many problems with temporary accommodation: overcrowding, repairs, the length of time people are left there and people being put as far as 200 miles away from their local authority, with children having to change schools or travel long distances to and from school, making them tired and less energetic in class.
The pressure on local authorities has come at a time when the pandemic is still raging and resources are being cut by the Conservative government, leading to a shortage of council homes, and no plan for a mass building of them. There are increasing numbers of homeless people on the streets and, worse, there seems to be no end to evictions as the government continues to delay plans to scrap section 21 evictions. As living costs rise, there are fears evictions will only increase.
Councils such as Wandsworth, which has over 3,000 children in temporary accommodation, are not building enough council homes for their local residents. One in five of the luxury homes built in Nine Elms are not being sold, leaving the properties empty. Only 35 council homes were built here in 2021.
Southwark has 100 council homes left empty with no plans to refurbish and put residents in them. Some local authorities are taking a more proactive approach: Islington and Haringey are refurbishing or launching new council homes to provide housing for those in need. Local authorities should be urged to apply for funding from the Mayor to build more council homes to get people out of temporary accommodation.
The temporary accommodation campaign was set up to speak out against the lack of action to end the housing crisis. It is launching a letter to ask MPs to lobby the government for urgent changes to the temporary accommodation system in the UK and to solve the housing crisis by building more council homes. This should include:
- Giving every temporary accommodation resident the legal right to accommodation which is within their original borough of residence, which should be of a good standard to live in, takes account of their mental and physical health needs, guarantees them the right to privacy and community links and ensuring that no one is penalised for rejecting temporary accommodation which is not fit for them to live in.
- Ensuring that issues in temporary accommodation currently used, such as damp, lack of heating and infestations are immediately remedied and all temporary accommodation is made fit for human habitation. Moving forward, temporary accommodation should be retrofitted to ensure buildings are green. You can join the great homes campaign here.
- Funding the building of 100,000 council homes per year, and committing to end long waiting times for council housing by the end of this Parliament.
A copy of the letter is here. Write to your MP and share with family and friends as action is long overdue. We want temporary accommodation to be fit for people, not for profit.
Andrea Gilbert is an activist with the Labour Homelessness Campaign and the Wandsworth Housing Action group. She is a Labour candidate for West Putney ward in the upcoming London council elections.