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''They who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.'' Carol - Good King Wenceslas

 

Homelessness is like Santa Claus. It only comes around at Christmas. The rest of the year we just forget about it.

 

Charities like Crisis and Crash, do much to help the Homeless at Christmas. They say the problem of homelessness has grown by 43% in one year in the capital. These charities provide health checks, nourishing meals, learning opportunities and advice on jobs and housing. What they cannot provide is the long term housing, needed to solve homelessness. 

 

Today the homeless have to accept whatever home is offered to them. If they are in a London borough where there is not enough accommodation to go around they may find themselves forced to accept a home outside London. That means single parent families with children in school in London being forced to accept a home in Luton.

 

Insufficient numbers of homes exist in the capital within the capped Housing benefit of £ 400.00 per week. Yet to many of us this limit is a   generous one. Is it right that families living on benefits should be able to live in areas of London that hardworking families could simply never afford? Housing markets operate on supply and demand and in our capital demand is greater than supply. Do we increase Housing benefits or increase subsidies for social housing? These are not long term solutions.

 

We could identify development sites where Housing associations and private companies can build housing for rent. Low land values would result from specifically designated land use that states that only low cost rental housing can be built. This may mean land on the periphery of the capital. It may mean the sacrifice of sports fields and open space. It may mean higher rise buildings for more flats; it may mean utilising space over shops.

 

It will mean a greater intensification of development in our capital but what it must mean is a better deal for the homeless.  If we are serious about tackling homelessness we cannot do so with subsidies alone. We have to provide a greater number of homes.

 

We need to be honest too. We must be allowed to create these new homes free of the fear of offending sensitivities. Where there are transport links we should restrict car use. We should apply basic design and materials that reduce cost. We should impose smoking bans in flatted development. We should reduce reliance on Housing benefit by encouraging work and reducing living costs.

 

We have to focus on the need for more housing for the benefit of all in Society. All types of housing that must aim to end the indignity of homelessness. Christmas is a time to celebrate a Christian tradition that is a foundation of our caring society

 

Let us remember that when we sing the words of a favourite carol.

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