Why didn’t SBC demand the government honour its commitment on homelessness funding?

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This is a media release from Swindon Housing Action Campaign

Swindon Council has given the impression that its proposal to buy 100 homes on the market into which they will put homeless people is motivated by a concern to deal with the homelessness crisis. Look carefully at the Cabinet documents and you can see this isn’t the case. The reason they have proposed this is because the government is cutting Swindon’s funding for homelessness prevention and relief. The new grant system which is being introduced is £400,000 less than the council received in 2016-17. This is despite the fact that the government promised:

No local authority will receive less annual funding under the (new) grant than we estimate they would have received under the Department of Works & Pension fee.”

It’s therefore strange that Swindon Council failed to press the government to honour this commitment. The government statement on the new “flexible homelessness grant” was published on March 15th, together with the allocations each council would receive. Yet the council did nothing to respond to the loss £400,000 for more than five weeks. When they did eventually (on April 24th) write a very meek email to the department asking how they made their calculation, it was only after tenants pointed out the discrepancy, and pressed the council to demand that the government honour it’s commitment. More

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Swindon Housing Action Campaign calls for Swindon Council to increase resources to tackle poor living conditions in the Private Rented Sector

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Swindon Housing Action Campaign which STCG is involved in has called on Swindon Council to use some of the extra resources they will have from their proposed Council Tax increase, to employ extra Environmental Health Officers. EHOs are responsible for enforcing the law in the Private Rented Sector. See the letter to Council leader David Renard and Lead Member for Housing, Emma Faramarzi, below.

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Let them live in garages?

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George Osborne’s Autumn statement was bad news for people who stand no chance of obtaining a mortgage. There was no funding for building homes with ‘social rent’ which offer an alternative to the expensive private rental sector (PRS). Osborne is lining the pockets of the big builders by handing over to them £2.3 billion to subsidise a 20% cut in the price of ‘Starter Homes’.

The abandonment of any support for building ‘social rent’ homes will increase the shortage of genuinely affordable homes for rent as Council homes are sold off and not replaced. This shortage is reflected in the PRS in Swindon. Councillors and Council officers have started to find people renting garages to live in. The fact that such a situation can exist in our supposedly affluent town is shameful. It’s not something you would do if you had an alternative.

At the same time we have begun to find ‘gazumping’ in the PRS. Taking advantage of the shortage of affordable homes to rent some unscrupulous landlords are making would-be tenants compete with each other for a tenancy by offering rent way above the original asking asking price.

Both of these things are reflections of an imbalance in housing in the town. The phenomenal increase in the PRS from less than 6,000 at the time of the 2001 census to over 16,000 today is the result of a shortage of Council housing combined with a growing gulf between house prices and earnings.

Swindon Housing Action Campaign has been launched precisely to highlight the human consequences of this housing crisis and to campaign against exploitative landlords. The government has abandoned to their fate those people who cannot afford a mortgage. In London and other places we have read about ‘beds in sheds’. In Swindon we now have beds in garages. It’s a shameful indictment of a failed housing policy.

Martin Wicks

Swindon Housing Action Campaign

For further comment ring 07786 394593

SHAC can be contacted by email at housingaction@btinternet.com

Swindon Housing Action Campaign – Addressing Swindon’s housing crisis

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This is a media release from a new housing campaign which we are supporting.

Six local organisations (listed below) have come together to launch Swindon Housing Action Campaign (SHAC) in response to the worsening housing crisis. The new campaign will be leafleting Swindon town centre on November 28th, from 10 – 12 o’clock.

Swindon suffers from a crisis of affordability for both rent and ownership. It suffers from

  • A shortage of Council housing – our homes continue to be lost to ‘right to buy’ and not replaced;
  • House prices which are too high for many people to afford a mortgage – prices even for the lowest quartile homes are over 5 times the lowest quartile earnings;
  • A rapidly growing private rented sector (PRS) with insecure tenure, high rents and much poor quality housing.

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