Housing providers have a greater duty of care in 2022

    Housing providers have a greater duty of care in 2022

    One of the undisputed needs of humanity, along with food and water, is to have a roof over your head. It has always been the case, from the very earliest days of civilisation people have had shelter, and helped each other to find shelter.

    So why, in 2022, does this basic right of citizens in the UK and across the world seem to be ignored, not wilfully, but maybe put to one side?

    The scale of homelessness is huge; but it is difficult to quantify, with many types of homelessness. As well as rough sleeping many people are trapped in shelters and temporary accommodation. A report commissioned by the Big Issue in 2021 estimated that up to 227,000 people in the UK were homeless, many of them ‘sofa-surfing’ at the homes of family or friends. English councils helped over 250,000 households to prevent or relieve homelessness between April 2020 and March 2021 and that is another good indication of the homeless landscape in the country.

    The UK keeps a good track of homelessness, but rates here are difficult to compare with the rest of Europe, as the UK counts numbers of households and include those people at risk of homelessness, but not yet. According to the OECD, as at the end of 2020, Germany and Slovakia had the largest number of homeless people, per 10,000 population; partly increased by the migrant crisis.

    And now the crisis in Ukraine is adding further pressure as millions of refugees escape the war-torn country.

    The pandemic undoubtedly had an impact and now, the cost of living crisis sweeping across the world is making life ever more difficult for those people who are struggling to make ends meet. Families with low and fluctuating income are faced with spiralling fuel and food prices and those are the main drivers for the increase in social housing rent arrears, and there is no evidence of widespread misspending among people with rent arrears.

    In the private sector nearly 230,000 renters have been served with Section 21 evictions since 2019. These are also known as a ‘no-fault eviction’ notice –meaning renters have two months to leave the property. Every seven minutes a private renter in England is handed an eviction and this hike will only serve to increase the number of homeless people at a time when the social housing stock growth has stuttered.

    Our member, Zedpods, is trying to help, with its modular, built off site, carbon neutral homes, with developments throughout England… and the stock will rise; but, right now, the situation is urgent and frightening for too many people.

    The private sector landlords can’t be expected to always take the hit themselves, but they must show humanity wherever possible, and social housing providers too must show empathy and do all they can to protect their tenants.

    The government needs to do more, as always, as we enter a perfect storm of financial stress. The Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a windfall tax to help offset spiralling energy costs and that’s a start.

    But there is so much more to be done and, while the world faces another tough year it falls on everyone to help those who are less well off.

    And, among other things, that means providing shelter to those in the greatest need.


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