SVP members are receiving a growing number of requests for assistance from families in emergency accommodation, but increasingly from households who have received notices to quit, or are facing rent hikes that they are simply not in a position to make. As can be imagined, this is a time of immense shock, stress and uncertainty.
The past twelve months have been marked by further economic growth, falling unemployment and continued job creation. However, the last year has also seen the price of housing and rent continue to spiral, becoming increasingly out of reach for those on low and median incomes.
It is over four years since the Convention on the Constitution favoured changes to the Constitution to include the right to housing. Over the intervening years, the number of households becoming homeless or having to rely on support networks to take them in, has reached unprecedented levels and far exceeded predictions even just two years ago by housing experts.
SVP members gain a unique insight into the lives of people by meeting them in their homes and listening to their stories. We know that it is not possible for anyone to have an equal chance in life unless they first have a secure, safe home. Many of us are unfortunately all too aware of the statistics. But as always, real families, children and individuals lie behind these figures, facing the daily stress and strain, as well as the practical challenges that come with living in overcrowded conditions, being located at a distance from school, work and communities, living out of bags, while dealing with the uncertainty of not knowing how long this will last for, and when moving into a secure home of their own might be realised.
“A mother and her children are staying in a friend’s spare room. She knows this is only a temporary measure as her friend did not want to see them stuck. But they were living out of bags. There is no room for clothes or toys. At night, she finds it hard to settle her youngest daughter. She is actively applying for jobs to help get back on her feet.” (SVP member)
Of particular concern is the precariousness that tenants continue to find themselves in, including those who entered the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme as a way out of homelessness but who are once again becoming homeless as their HAP tenancy breaks down for a variety of reasons, including unsustainable top ups and unrealistic HAP limits.
An experience of homelessness at a young age has the potential to have life-long consequences. Young people who are homeless require a range of specialist policy and service responses. Recent proposals from several banks to sell off distressed mortgages to so-called ‘vulture funds’, is likely to result in a dramatic increase in the number of home repossessions. The sale of such loans does not however, represent the sole solution to the problem. It is also clear that we need to be intervening at a much earlier stage, particularly for vulnerable groups – and before people become homeless.
An urgent reassessment of the Government's housing policy is needed, including prioritising the scale-up of the delivery of social and affordable housing while protecting and expanding financing options to ensure this can be realised, enhancing prevention supports to enable people to remain in their homes, ensuring the provision of adequate resources and capacity for Local Authorities and the Residential Tenancies Board to conduct inspections - all with the ultimate aim of ensuring that everyone has the right to an affordable, secure and adequate home.
From what SVP members are consistently seeing across the country, it is clear that the cost of inaction, and failure to address the homeless emergency, will have much greater and longer-term impacts and costs on families and for wider society.
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