Medway Greens respond to Council’s Homelessness Prevention Strategy

Please find below a letter by one of our officers, Sean Shirley-Smith regarding Medway Council’s response to homelessness which was published in the Medway Messenger recently.

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In responding to Medway Council’s Homelessness Prevention Strategy consultation which closed last Friday the Medway Greens have expressed disappointment in the measures proposed to make access to housing “fairer”. These appear very limited and fail to respond to the lack of social housing in Medway despite the shortfall being the biggest in the country (1).

A couple of years ago approximately ten thousand people in the Band C category on the Social Housing waiting list were simply removed due to lack of social housing in Medway with the claim that they were not in enough need.  My family was among that group of people despite reaching the top five of the bidding process numerous times just before we were removed.   We also experienced difficulty in applying for a house on the list as every time a house becomes available there are on average 40 to 50 applicants.   The current consultation document declares the private sector to be “increasingly important” but fails to acknowledge that the reason for this is the distinct lack of Local Authority control over housing.

The document does acknowledge that although housing benefit covers the cost of social housing, it leaves those renting homes from private landlords with a shortfall.  However, it is unclear how the Council proposes to respond to this.  Medway Green Party are concerned that people on very low incomes who are forced to rent from private landlords may have to go without other essentials, like food, to pay their rent or are otherwise at risk of becoming homeless.

While there is a welcome strategy to prevent homelessness before it occurs, it is unclear how well the various groups tasked with providing support are resourced.  The plan also lacks any exploration of alternative options for providing additional housing such as bringing empty homes back into use and supporting the idea of Community Land Trusts which help local people to build their own homes. It would be useful to know how much is spent on temporary accommodation and whether these resources could be diverted into providing accommodation of a more stable nature. It would also be useful to know what is meant by privately provided “affordable” housing as accommodation branded as such is often not truly affordable to those on low incomes.

Yours,

Sean Shirley-Smith
Medway Green Party Officer

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ENDS

NOTES:

1] Taken from Housing Summary Measures Analysis, Office for National Statistics, 2016 – chapter 17

“In 2015, the 3 areas with the largest shortfall in social housing were Medway, Fylde and Isle of Wight (236% of social housing stock, 145% and 125% respectively). This means that the social housing shortfall in Medway was more than double the social housing stock for Medway in 2015”.

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/housing/articles/housingsummarymeasuresanalysis/2015#social-housing-stock

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