14 July 2020
What is Talking Points?
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 fortnight. Here, we share our response to the question.
Today's Question: what more can be done to support the homeless in Cambridge?
When the lockdown started City Council workers sprang into action to find places for 104 people who were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. That shows what can be done when there is a will and a clear vision.
As in so many other areas the pandemic has broadened our horizons of what is possible and taught us to think radically.
Sadly over recent decades we have become all too used to seeing homeless people on the streets of our towns and cities. We come to think of homelessness as an inevitable fact of life, when it is a product of the unjust and unequal economic system we have fashioned for ourselves. With will and determination we can end homelessness. We know that now.
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. That indicates how much is theoretically available to address the need.
Green Party policy is to jettison a ‘treatment first’ policy in favour of a ‘housing first’ policy i.e. to spend money on finding places for homeless people to live and then addressing their other needs. Now that the Council has experience of imaginative initiatives to find space for homeless people, Greens would urge them to make greater use of the powers they already have to take over unused property, such as Empty Dwelling Management Orders.
A root cause of the problem is the runaway cost of housing in Cambridge. Greens advocate a land value tax to take the heat out of the property market and to discourage speculation.
Our response was written by Matthew Howard. Matt is our City Council candidate for Abbey, his professional background is in chemical engineering, and he has a particular interest in how local communities could be structured in a healthier, more sustainable way.