Three UWE academics sign up to the need for a new approach to our housing crisis

Issue date: 02 March 2016

Three academics from the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) have signed up in support of a recent letter to The Guardian newspaper highlighting the need for a new approach to the housing crisis faced in our cities.

The letter has been signed by many experts in this research area from all over the UK who believe that the Housing and Planning Bill will do little or nothing to alleviate the housing crisis, quite the reverse, that many proposals will 'significantly reduce the number of genuinely affordable homes'.

The researcher at London Metropolitan University, Dr Frances Holliss from the Workhome Project, and author of the letter 'Fill empty properties before building more homes' published in The Guardian on Thursday 25 February argues that a more creative approach is needed so that we make better use of the empty spaces in our cities. She is not the only one who believes in this approach. The letter is supported by 73 leading academics who all advocate this approach as a better solution to the crisis.

In The Guardian article Dr Hollis says, “Mechanisms are needed to bring all empty buildings, residential and commercial, back into use – converting from commercial to residential for the social good, rather than to feed the investment market in housing. And home-based work needs to be supported across the social spectrum.”

Dr Adam Sheppard from UWE Bristol says, “There is a very real housing challenge in England and action is needed to address this; a big part of that is affordability. Perversely though, these changes will actually increase this challenge and only serve to further heighten the housing crisis in some respects.”

Robin Hambleton, Professor of City Leadership at UWE, says: “Lord Porter, the experienced leader of Conservative councillors across England, has warned that the Housing and Planning Bill will lead to the loss of 80,000 council houses in the next four years. Given there are over a million people on council waiting lists this will be a disaster. The Government should listen to respected voices in and outside local government and change tack.”

Katie McClymont, Senior Lecturer, Planning and Architecture, said, “Housing mix and tenancy security are vital to sustaining communities. These measures look likely to undermine this, viewing housing solely as a financial asset rather than something more fundamental to the wellbeing of our society.”

The academics believe the introduction of means testing and 'Pay to Stay' deals if household income exceeds £30,000 (£40,000 in London), radically undermines the stability of mixed communities and disincentives' work. The bill is also seen to discriminate against Gypsies and Travellers by reducing potential housing sites. Also by abolishing lifetime tenancies, council tenants will not be able to plan their lives any further than five years into the future.

“Decades of rigorous study into housing provision around the world suggest that these proposals will fuel rising housing costs, diminish local government resources, fatally undermine alternatives to market-based housing provision and ultimately increase the displacement of vulnerable communities and elevate eviction rates. This is not a solution to a crisis, but an accelerant that, in the process of changing the housing landscape, will devastate communities and families across the country.” (source – The Guardian)

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