VIEW blog: Social housing needs to be top of the agenda

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By VIEW editor Brian Pelan

BBC4 last night screened Ken Loach’s powerful 1966 documentary Cathy Come Home which revealed the shocking housing crisis in Britain at the time.

The documentary sparked a huge outcry over the plight of around three million people who were living in slums,  stuck in an exploitative private housing market or who were homeless. It led to the setting up of the UK housing charity Shelter.

Fifty years later we’re still living amidst a housing crisis. Thousands of families and young people in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Britain are unable to afford a home, face repossession or are homeless.

A Northern Ireland Housing Executive update on July 31, 2016, stated: “During 2014/15, the number of households presenting as homeless increased from 18,862 to 19,621, representing a 4% increase overall. …The impact of the recession and a lack of affordable housing present significant challenges in addressing homelessness.”

Meanwhile a charity in the the Republic has warned that three families are being made homeless every day in the country as housing services reach breaking point.

Records from Focus Ireland show around 5,500 people, a third of them children, are currently without a home in the country.

In Britain, home ownership is slipping out of reach; housing costs are hugely expensive; more families are renting from private landlords and the levels of homelessness are rising.

Many housing experts, charities and campaigners argue that to tackle the problem, thousands of affordable homes need to be built. A social housing strategy needs to be at the top of the agenda.

Whilst charities do excellent campaigning work they will always be a reactive force.

The choice is stark. In another 50 years if we are still talking about a housing crisis we we will have failed the families who need an affordable roof over their heads.

The solution of social housing is on the table. We must endeavour to make it a reality.

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