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Welfare Reform on the Web (June 2012): Homelessness - UK

Housing crisis causes surge in sheds with beds

R. Hall

The Independent, May 10th 2012, p. 10

The article reports on the increasing number of people who, because of lack of adequate and affordable housing, are living in structures not originally intended for habitation. Housing campaigners refer to them as "modern-day slums" but they have generally become known as "sheds with beds". They are often rented out to individuals or families who cannot find and/or afford adequate housing by unscrupulous landlords. Grant Shapps, the Housing Minister, has promised to crack down on 'criminal landlords' by encouraging councils to make greater use of legal powers to prevent illegal housing from developing. He has also started working with foreign authorities to assist those who wish to leave the UK to return home. The article reports that many councils are already taking advantage of new legislation which allows local authorities to offer those who need it rehousing in distant areas. It is hoped that new powers accorded to the London Mayor will help ease the housing crisis.

The statutory homelessness system in England: a fair and effective rights-based model?

S. Fitzpatrick and N. Pleace

Housing Studies, vol.27, 2012, p. 232-251

This paper examines the merits of the statutory homelessness system in the UK, and particularly in England. First established by the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977, this system provides that certain homeless households must be secured accommodation by local authorities. It is highly unusual in the international context in providing a 'justiciable' right for homeless households, that is a right which the relevant domestic courts will enforce on behalf of individual applicants. Drawing on a survey of 2053 statutorily homeless families, this paper applies a utility-maximising conceptual framework to demonstrate that the system is fair with respect to the housing needs it addresses and effective in that it can bring about significant net gains in the welfare of those households it assists.

Tory borough plans to move homeless away from London

R. Ramesh

The Guardian, May 3rd 2012, p. 8

Homeless people faced being moved outside their local area into rented accommodation rather than being placed on a waiting list for council housing under plans considered by a flagship Tory borough in the capital, according to leaked documents obtained by the Guardian. Hammersmith & Fulham Council admitted it was in talks, along with Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea, to relocate 500 families on benefits to the Midlands - but said any agreement would not result in a large-scale exodus. However, Hammersmith & Fulham's new strategy made it clear that anyone claiming to be homeless would now be offered accommodation "potentially outside the borough" - a break with past policy which sought to offer the destitute a local home until they were allocated council housing. This thinking extended to planning policy: more than 10,000 homes were to be given planning consent in the borough, yet not one would be available to the poor on a social rent, even though mayor Boris Johnson's London plan required a quarter of new developments to be available to those on low wages.

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