How to solve the homeless crisis

Ric BlenkharnCo-founder of Bramhall Blenkharn

Over the year I have written on a variety of subjects, including the value of design, the need for housing an ageing population and the responsibility to consider public realm as equally important to the buildings we create.

I hope the articles have informed homeowners, renters and prospective buyers about the importance of architecture and how it can influence decision making at all levels.

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However, one of the most pressing issues of current times and highlighted particularly as winter approaches are the real needs of those without a home to call their own.

It is thought that there will be nearly 25,000 people sleeping rough over the Christmas period, staying under canvass, sleeping in shop doorways or anywhere they can find a place to shelter. Crisis, the national homeless charity has suggested that the number of people sleeping rough is more than double what official statistics suggest.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, says: “Right now across England, councils are desperately struggling to find homeless people somewhere to live. This means thousands of people are ending up trapped in B&Bs and hostels or on the streets, exposed to danger every night.

“It also means that far too many people are living on a knife edge, in danger of losing their homes because of sky-high housing costs.

“We know that homelessness is not inevitable and that with the right action, it can become a thing of the past. To truly get to grips with this crisis and ensure everyone has a safe and stable home, we must build the social and affordable housing we need to end homelessness once and for all.”

So there is a desperate need to provide secure social housing not only for the homeless but the many thousands of people looking to find a home they can call their own.

The homeless issue is the tip of the iceberg of housing need. Research this year, reveals the true scale of the housing crisis in England published by the National Housing Federation – which represents housing associations in England, social landlords to five million people.

The research, conducted by Heriot-Watt University, shows that England's total housing need backlog has reached four million homes. A new housing settlement is needed to address this shortage, providing a home for everyone who currently needs one, including homeless people, private tenants spending huge amounts on rent, children unable to leave the family home, and even couples delaying having children because they are stuck in unsuitable housing.

Crisis note that “to both meet this backlog and provide for future demand, the country needs to build 340,000 homes per year until 2031.” This is higher than current estimates, which have not taken into account the true scale of housing need

However, they will need to be the right type of homes. About 145,000 of these new homes must be affordable, as compared to previous estimates of 78,000.

This means that around two-fifths of all new homes built every year must be affordable homes.

I would urge all professionals involved in the housing sector to think constructively as to how we can meet these needs effectively and with some urgency. Let us hope that 2019 becomes a year of real change where the needs of those without a home are met and homelessness becomes a thing of the past.