Empty homes should be put to use, photo William Muprhy/CC

Empty homes should be put to use, photo William Muprhy/CC   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Ian Pattison, East London Socialist Party

600 homeless people died in 2017 in England and Wales. Homeless deaths have increased every year since 2014, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The ONS study is limited to homeless people who live on the streets or in emergency accommodation. It excludes homeless people in bed and breakfasts or sofa surfing, so the real figure is likely even higher.

It’s not an unavoidable tragedy. Even the Tory-led Local Government Association admit homelessness services are £100 million short of what they need.

The homeless population in temporary accommodation is also up, rocketing to over 82,000 in England in 2018. Only 6% of London is open to rent if you’re on housing benefit.

Big business can only think of profit. Councils spent almost £1 billion on temporary accommodation for homeless people in England last year. Another increase caused by rip-off landlords making money out of misery.

The solutions are simple. If people can’t afford to rent, then rents should be capped, controlled and cut.

£1 billion of council money going to the private sector is a waste. There should be a mass programme of council-home building, to provide publicly owned, secure housing for all.

The cuts to housing and homelessness services that have taken place so far should be stopped and reversed.

Ultimately we can’t control what we don’t own. Taking the banks and major construction companies into democratic public ownership would allow their wealth to be used, not for gargantuan profits, but to build high-quality affordable housing for all.