Saturday, 27 January 2007

Raising the profile of homelessness

The alarm went off at 5am this morning so I could get to Gloucester by 6am for the final session of 'Insomnia 2007' - an event organised by the Diocese of Gloucester to highlight the issues of homelessness at home and abroad. Having felt quite virtuous at getting up so early to do this, I soon felt more like a fraud when I joined about 200 teenagers who had been up all night in the cathedral. The event was partly about raising funds for homelessness projects, but also about raising awareness, especially for the Bishop, two other MPs and two council chief executives who spent the night sleeping (or not sleeping) under cardboard.

One of the things that never ceases to surprise me is how often housing issues feature in my constituency surgery. Rarely a week goes by without someone coming in who is threatened with homelessness, perhaps becuase their tenancy agreement is coming to an end, or perhaps because of relationship breakdown. High house prices and high rents make it very difficult for many people to get secure accommodation in our area, and the lack of affordable housing is something I have repeatedly raised at Westminster.

There is some sign of progress, not least as the council strives to ensure that 1 in 3 of the thousands of new homes we will be getting in our area is an affordable rented home, but it will take many years before we have a better balance between the supply of affordable homes and the local demand for them.

1 comment:

Joanna said...

The problem of homelessness could be greatly reduced if the thousands of habitable vacant buildings across South Gloucestershire and Bristol were utilised instead of being left to decay.

Also, the lack of new housing could be addressed to some extent by planners who at present are hell bent on producing policies that remove the commercial incentives for property development.