Earlier this month the housing charity Shelter analysed the number of homeless people in the England. The analysis combined the official figures from four different sources: national government statistics, the number of people in hostels, those in temporary accommodation, and the number of people on waiting lists for social housing. From these figures, it’s estimated that over 250,000 people are homeless in England alone. Labour has worked with Shelter for a number of years and it appears that the party are proposing bold solutions to this injustice.
Shelter’s data showed that homelessness was highest in London but there were also hotspots in Brighton, Birmingham, and Luton. As if the figure of 250,000 wasn’t shocking enough, the same statistics estimate that this Christmas approximately 120,000 children will be homeless.The government’s response to this analysis was that “the government is investing over £500 million during the course of this parliament to tackle homelessness”. Whilst any money for reducing homelessness is good, the fact that 250,000 people are still without a home in one of the wealthiest countries in the world shows that the Tories cannot be trusted to solve this problem.
Labour’s housing spokesman John Healey has said that a future Labour government would end the “national shame” of rough sleeping and called this social problem “inexcusable”. The party’s plan is to introduce legislation against land banking by developers, to introduce rent caps in the private rented sector, to reverse Right to Buy, and to build 200,000 more homes per year. All four of these measures would reduce evictions and increase the quantity of housing stock thus reducing homelessness.
This is the kind of approach that is not often talked about and can easily win favour with the electorate. Irrespective of your ideological or philosophical approach to life, nobody thinks that homelessness is a social good. Whether you empathise with the plight of these people or you think that they make the community look scruffy, homelessness needs to be addressed. If you look at the evidence Labour have a coherent plan to tackle the problem, and the Tories do not.
In fact, welfare sanctions and legislation like Right to Buy have made the problem much worse. According to the government’s own figures, homelessness has risen by 54% since the Tories came to power in 2010. The policies suggested and implemented by the Tories have made the housing situation drastically worse.
Labour and the press need to hold the Tories to account as a failure to do this allows them to get off scot free, as if the spike in homelessness was caused by abstract forces beyond the control of any government. Social anxiety is one of the motivating factors behind the rise in populism and increasing hostility towards ethnic minorities. By illustrating that they want to tackle these serious problems, Labour can point to this policy as evidence of their wider approach to government. The Tories do not care about ordinary people but Labour will stand with the weakest in society. If they are going to competitively contest a general election, this message must be a component of their campaign.