Hackney’s homeless figures are no surprise – it’s now time for the government to take notice

Cllr Rebecca Rennison, Cabinet Member for Finance and Housing Needs, on how Hackney is tackling homelessness.

Cllr Rebecca Rennison, Cabinet Member for Finance and Housing Needs

Last week the housing charity Shelter launched its new Christmas appeal with a report identifying Hackney as having the 10thhighest level of homelessness in the country - writes hackney.gov.uk.

The figures, showing that one in every 44 people in Hackney is classed as homeless, show the all too real human tragedy of the housing crisis. But, equally sadly, they provide no surprise.

With around 3,000 of the 13,000 households on our housing waiting list homeless families living in temporary accommodation, we’re all too aware of the housing issues facing Hackney, and we strongly welcome Shelter shining a light on the full extent of these problems nationwide.

In fact, with Hackney experiencing the biggest average increase in house prices in the country in the last 20 years, including an 82% rise in just the last 5 years, we might be even higher in the list if we weren’t already doing all we can to tackle the problem.

This means bringing hundreds of empty homes back into use for the families that need them most. It means delivering one of the biggest programmes of Council house building in the country. And – with evictions from the private rented homes now the number one reason residents approach the Council for help with homelessness – it means taking action to get Hackney’s 32,000 private renters the rights and support they deserve though our #BetterRenting campaign.

As the temperature begins to drop, it’s those sleeping rough who will suffer most. We’ve always focussed our resources on finding vulnerable rough sleepers and working with charities to get them the housing, health and employment help they need to get back on their feet.

We’ve now expanded our support and advice services, working with the homelessness charity Thames Reach to open the Greenhouse – London’s first multi-purpose resource and advice centre for homeless people. And our innovative No First Night Out initiative, run in partnership with Tower Hamlets and the City of London, has already helped 79 people who would have otherwise gone on to rough sleep find suitable housing.

But national problems need national solutions, and Shelter’s report makes clear how the government can begin to tackle the situation right away by addressing the shortage of genuinely affordable homes, putting housing benefit back in line with actual rent levels, and providing longer, more secure tenancies in the private sector.

Whether it’s campaigning to stop the arbitrary borrowing cap that stops new Council homes getting built, pushing for an end to unfair letting fees charged to private renters, or asking for change to a system in which just 3% of private rented home are affordable to those on housing benefit , we’re already campaigning on these very issues. As the Chancellor unveils the Autumn Budget on 22 November, we hope he remembers those families facing a Christmas without a home this winter.

Cllr Rebecca Rennison, Cabinet Member for Finance and Housing Needs

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