Everyone pretty much agrees that we are in a housing crisis. At its simplest there are too many people without a decent place to live and too few houses to accommodate them.
Unfortunately, the problem is getting worse.
The crisis is more serious than just a physical shortage of bricks and mortar too. It is a real human crisis. There are too many families without a secure home and kids without a decent place to grow up. And the fact there is such a thing as homelessness at all is not so much a crisis as an outrage.
We are very fortunate today to have many organisations working towards and campaigning for more housing and a permanent solution.
But therein lies part of the challenge. With so many organisations assessing the problem individually, there are many different estimates of what is required. There is no consensus on the number of houses needed to solve the crisis.
* Shelter estimates that 3.1 million social homes are needed over 20 years. (1)
* Crisis estimates that 100,500 new social homes are needed each year for the next 15 years to meet the needs of the homeless and those on low incomes. (2)
* The Affordable Housing Commission estimates that the affordable housing gap could widen by 500,000 over five years without a step change in supply. (3)
* A BBC Housing Briefing estimates that in recent years we have built 1.2 million fewer homes than we should have. (4)
* The Government, while aiming to increase overall housing supply by 300,000 homes a year, has sought to change the way in which need is assessed in the first place. (5)
Each of these organisations has put a great deal of effort into their proposals. However, with so many figures being generated, the focus has too often been on the misalignment of the numbers rather than fixing the issue at hand.
So what should we do? Take the lowest number? Or the highest number? Or work out an average of the numbers that might be needed? On the basis that something is better than nothing.
In truth that would not take us any nearer to a solution. It could even worsen it.
No. What we need is a consensus. For everyone to align their thinking and try to come up with a number upon which we can all agree. Keeping it simple and consistent would be far more effective. This can form the foundation to enable us speak powerfully to the protracted nature of the problem and what we can collectively do to solve it.
Here at KeyStone we are doing our bit in our own small way. And we have big plans to do even more by joining forces with likeminded organisations and individuals. But no one organisation can do it alone. This crisis needs the government, politicians, public bodies, charitable organisations, businesses and individuals to come together so that our collective energies can be channelled in the best way possible.
A consensus with everyone pulling together in the same direction would be a giant leap towards providing the homes that everyone needs and solving the housing crisis once and for all.
By Steve Thavam
(1) A vision for social housing, from Shelter – Shelter England
(3) Press release: Affordable Housing Commission’s 12 point plan puts social and affordable housing at the heart of the recovery — Affordable Housing Commission
(4) Housing shortage: Scale of UK housing gap revealed – BBC News
(5) Calculating housing need in the planning system (England) – House of Commons Library (parliament.uk)