Walking through our city, it has never been clearer that the housing ‘market’ has failed in this country.
A toxic cocktail of Conservative Government punitive welfare reforms, the loss of housing from ‘Right to Buy’ of council housing, and deregulated rents have pushed people on to the streets.
The recent Grenfell Tower inquiry found that almost all building regulations designed to ensure tenant safety are inadequate. As that unforgettable tragedy laid bare – a housing market set up for profit, not people, has had truly horrific consequences.
News buried deep in a council press release last week revealed that rough sleeping in our city has rocketed 24 per cent in just one year. In something resembling a lost scene from a Dickens novel, this week local people raised the alarm that council staff had been instructed to remove rough sleepers’ belongings and issued a fine notice to secure their return. Rough sleepers are more likely to be victims of antisocial behaviour than other members of the public and such heartless gestures are a grim reminder of what is so wrong.
We are destined to have many more Christmases with rough sleepers on the streets unless the Labour council starts to address the root causes of homelessness and provide more accommodation. Along with housing activists, Greens have consistently campaigned for the council to explore further the principle of ‘Housing First.’ It works on the basis that the first thing to do is to get people off the streets. With a roof over their heads, people have a firm base from which to receive specialist support to overcome mental health issues or substance misuse. Crucially, they can begin to determine their own futures and contribute to society. The Greens initiated one of the first Housing First schemes in the country now run by St Mungo’s. Its deeply valued work helps 10 people. We strongly believe we need to vastly increase this area of work.
I took part in the collection for First Base on Saturday which reaffirmed that the people of Brighton and Hove care passionately about the homeless. Let’s make 2018 the year of decisive action on homelessness.
Phelim Mac Cafferty is the convenor of the Green councillors on Brighton & Hove City Council.