2 March 2021
What is Talking Point?
Cambridge News asks a representative of each local political party to answer a question on a local issue in just 300 words. The answers are then published in the physical copy of the Cambridge News every week. Here, we share our response to the question.
Today's Question: In light of the publication of the city council's new Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy, what, in your view, would be the best policies for tackling the issue in the months/years ahead and how should the city spend this "fund of nearly £750,000...for the benefit of homelessness prevention and relief"?
The Strategy document makes for sobering reading. A great deal is being done by many dedicated workers and volunteers, but one cannot help being left with the feeling that the playing field is progressively being tilted against them.
Cambridge is the most unequal city in the whole of the UK. The poorest 20% of residents take home just 2% of income. This is sickening and scandalous. The crisis in the availability of affordable housing is the inevitable outcome of that, and a major driver of homelessness.
As well as being heart-breaking, homelessness is also expensive. Back in 2012, a government study estimated that each homeless person costs the public purse £30,000 per year in the costs of healthcare, benefits, police time and local authority resources, and that is before the personal costs to the people who are homeless are factored in.
The Strategy encouragingly reports on the success of the Housing First initiatives, i.e. spending money on finding places for homeless people to live and then addressing their other needs. This has long been Green Party policy and the evidence suggests that it is more effective than a ‘treatment first’ policy, so it is right that spending money to secure further properties would be a good use of any funds available.
Homelessness is the consequence of poor social policy and poor planning for affordable housing. The runaway development in Cambridge doesn’t begin to meet the needs of this group because developers have been able to down-grade the percentage of affordable and social housing set out in the local plan and they are careful to build properties that to keep profits and prices high – way out of reach of homeless people – and the resources available to local authorities for social housing are restricted by central government policy and limited funding.
Our response was written Jeremy Caddick. Jeremy was the MP Candidate for Cambridge in the 2019 General Election. He has lived in Cambridge for more than 25 years and is the Dean and Chaplain at one of the Colleges in Cambridge University. He campaigns for the University to cut its links with fossil fuel companies.