There are many different types of support public services should provide, yet we know so long as we can get someone into a job and put a roof over their head for the most part they will be alright.
For the last six years, a huge amount of work has gone into delivering affordable housing and better job opportunities for the town, with Crawley’s performance for both being amongst the best in the UK over that period. Yet, with our economy hit harder than any other by the Government’s coronavirus restrictions, all that progress is now at risk.
While I’ve often written about the need for a targeted extension to furlough for industries and communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, and without which our community will face needless hardship, this week I’d like to focus on what is happening to housing.
One of biggest risks of lockdown was a likely increase in homelessness as lower incomes prevented people from meeting their housing costs. To stop this the Government introduced a payments holiday on all mortgages, enabling anyone with a mortgage on any house to skip payments, whether it was somewhere they were living in or one they were renting out. However, for those living in those rental properties, there was no rent holiday to go along with their landlord’s mortgage holiday, just a ban on being evicted for a set period of time.
Those living in private rented accommodation are at significantly greater risk of unemployment than owner-occupiers, meaning that rather than helping to prevent an increase in homelessness brought on by their restrictions, the Government’s ban has simply kicked the can down the road. Given the efforts of councils to house the street homelessness during the first wave, failing to extend the ban in the midst of a second wave would be hugely counter-productive. Yet, a ban isn’t enough. We need real action to support those who due to the Government’s decisions can no longer afford their rent, not just a Stamp Duty holiday for those who can afford to buy, regardless of whether or not they already own.