The covid pandemic has exposed and deepened the housing crisis in the UK. This crisis was not caused by the pandemic, but by years of not ensuring we have the required amount of homes to ensure everyone has a safe place to call home. As the pandemic hit fast action was taken.
At the height of pandemic lockdown, local councils were able to house almost all homeless people at short notice, placing people in temporary accommodation. The amount of people in temporary accommodation soared in the middle of last year, more than 93,000 people were in such accommodation, this includes 62,700 families with children. The pandemic also saw a rise in the number of private renters in arrears, due to loss of income because of the pandemic. Action was also taken to protect them, with an eviction ban. This ban on evictions will be lifted on 31 May. This is a concern for many families and will no doubt mean a wave of homelessness will be on the way.
Even now as we start coming out of lockdown, the local housing crisis is deepening. Many areas such as Devon and Cornwall have seen people from London and other large cities move to the area as working from home becomes the new normal, this is putting extra pressure on the housing market and local services. In certain areas, the demand for rental properties is so high local people are struggling to find homes, in Cornwall estate agents have reported up to 70 enquiries for each individual property. This is due to lack of available properties and high demand.
The poor quality of some homes on the rental market has been to blame for the fast spread of the virus in some areas. Large houses are frequently converted into homes of multiple occupancy so landlords can maximize income with the space available. In large cities, office blocks which remain empty are being converted into housing. Local authorities must ensure this sort of housing is safe for human habitation.
As our covid recovery now begins, housing should be at the forefront of any plans. The pandemic has shown that we need safe, affordable and green housing for all. There is an urgent need to build more homes for people, this should start with homes built by local councils for the needs of local people.
Hoarded and empty
The thought of building homes on green spaces is a concern for many, but there is plenty of land being hoarded and not used across the country, this should be used instead. Other options must also be explored, such as the potential to take action on empty homes. Thousands of empty homes are sitting empty across the country, they could be repurposed as part of a plan to begin ending the housing crisis. We should learn what the pandemic has exposed and not continue to ignore it. Continuing to provide temporary accommodation is not enough, people need security when it comes to housing.
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