Labour opponents list rising homelessness in their allegations against Conservatives. The truth is that homelessness has risen in the last seven years but to nowhere near its peak under Labour.
Statutory homelessness is much more than 10% below the peak reached under Labour, as our chart above suggests. New cases are running 57% below the level of 2003/04, when 135,000 households were accepted by councils as entitled to housing.
This fact check on sanctions and homelessness is also worth reading for an illustration of how important caveats are sometimes omitted from worrying claims.
Homelessness and the causes of homelessness are among the long term failures of the welfare state to meet its promise under all governments. For more on failures under Labour, see Breakdown Britain by the Centre for Social Justice, for whom I did some voluntary work before I was elected. For what to do about it, see this summary of Breakthrough Britain.
We need a good strategy to get people off the streets and dealing with their often complex needs. Housing First is one such strategy. Wycombe Homeless Connection have raised it with me and I am proud to see it in our manifesto, just as I was proud to support the Homelessness Reduction Act:
Finally, we will continue to combat homelessness and rough sleeping including through full implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act. Our aim will be to halve rough sleeping over the course of the parliament and eliminate it altogether by 2027. To achieve this we will set up a new homelessness reduction taskforce that will focus on prevention and affordable housing, and we will pilot a Housing First approach to tackle rough sleeping.
There are not enough affordable homes. Our manifesto says (emphasis mine):
We will never achieve the numbers of new houses we require without the active participation of social and municipal housing providers. This must not be done at the expense of high standards, however: councils have been amongst the worst offenders in failing to build sustainable, integrated communities. In some instances, they have built for political gain rather than for social purpose. So we will help councils to build, but only those councils who will build high-quality, sustainable and integrated communities. We will enter into new Council Housing Deals with ambitious, pro-development, local authorities to help them build more social housing. We will work with them to improve their capability and capacity to develop more good homes, as well as providing them with significant low-cost capital funding. In doing so, we will build new fixed-term social houses, which will be sold privately after ten to fifteen years with an automatic Right to Buy for tenants, the proceeds of which will be recycled into further homes. We will reform Compulsory Purchase Orders to make them easier and less expensive for councils to use and to make it easier to determine the true market value of sites.
We will also give greater flexibility to housing associations to increase their housing stock, building on their considerable track record in recent years. And we will work with private and public sector house builders to capture the increase in land value created when they build to reinvest in local infrastructure, essential services and further housing, making it both easier and more certain that public sector landowners, and communities themselves, benefit from the increase in land value from urban regeneration and development. And we will continue our £2.5 billion flood defence programme that will put in place protection for 300,000 existing homes by 2021.
Homelessness is a tragic feature of society but misleading claims are being made about it. I am proud that the Conservatives are rising to the challenge of halving rough sleeping in the next Parliament with a view to ending it in ten years.
You can find the Conservative manifesto in full here: