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In the 21st Century nobody should be homeless

June 6, 2017 12:00 PM

The Liberal Democrats are committed to doing more to prevent and tackle homelessness and rough sleeping in the UK. We want to see the establishment of a cross-party, national strategy to end homelessness by 2020

The number of people sleeping rough in the UK rose to 4,134 in 2016, which is a 16% increase from the previous year, which in turn saw a 12% increase from the year before. There are many more people who do not show up in these statistics such as those who are staying with friends or family members, or living in squats often in very insecure and inappropriate accommodation. Research by Crisis suggests about 62% of single homeless people are hidden and may not show up in official figures. The hidden homeless are often subject to exploitation and risks to personal safety and health are high.

One of the main causes of homelessness is the ending of tenancies in the private rented sector. This sector is home for 18% of the population. Private sector rents have become untenably high in many parts of Britain and many renters are now paying more than half their disposable income in rent. Moving from one rented home to another can be very expensive, with high lettings fees and large deposit requirements. We want to tackle the housing crisis head on, with a view to not only meet current demand, but also tackle the historic under-supply of homes.

Of course solving the problem is not only about providing accommodation. Many rough sleepers have other problems including substance misuse or mental health issues. Some would not know how to manage a tenancy and would struggle to cope alone. That is why putting support services in place is so crucial if we are to get people into safe, secure and sustainable accommodation

We strongly opposed and would want to reverse the Conservative's housing benefit cuts to young people. The cut in the Tory Conservative's 2015 manifesto came into force on April 1 with the government saying it would stop young people who could live with their parents moving out. New legislation will stop certain people aged 18 to 21 being automatically entitled to the housing element of Universal Credit. An assessment by the Department for Work and Pensions initially said the move would affect around 11,000 young people. It is disgraceful and in certain circumstances could add to the homelessness problem.

Tackling homelessness is a high priority for Liberal Democrats - in the 21st Century nobody should be sleeping rough.