Election 2015

With the UK General Election coming in May, the campaigns of the various party leaders are bringing the issues our society faces to light. But how much coverage are the issues surrounding homelessness, poverty and housing getting?

According to a poll taken by Ipsos MORI in March 2015, 14% of people acknowledged housing as an important issue currently facing Britain, while 16% mentioned poverty or wealth inequality. This might not sound great, but it’s an improvement on the last election in 2010, when only 1% cited housing or poverty as an issue worth mentioning. Still, this is a long way from the coverage that these issues deserve.

Despite what the polls suggest, the housing crisis is serious. According to Homeless Link, a quarter of people living in a homelessness service are waiting for suitable, affordable accommodation to become available. The cost of renting a home has increased by 37% in the last five years. With private rents forecast to rise twice as fast as income, the chances of people who need accommodation gaining access will only get slimmer.

On March 17th, Homes for Britain hosted a rally in an effort to emphasise the issue of providing decent, affordable housing to those people who need it. More than 2,300 people from over 300 organisations attended the event, which was held in Methodist Central Hall in Westminster. The speakers at the rally included representatives from all the major political parties, who agreed unanimously that the housing crisis urgently needed to be addressed. Other speakers included Ken Loach, director of the television play Cathy Come Home (pictured left), and Jonathan Dimbleby.

The rally was a success, gaining widespread attention on social media and reaching over five million people. As head of the campaign James Green said, “We all felt that we had been too timid at the last election. That this time we wouldn’t wait for politicians or the media to offer us a platform, we would create one ourselves. On Tuesday we did just that. We didn’t just find our collective voice. By coming together on that scale, we ensured that politicians and the country were forced to listen.”

Click here to learn more about the Homes For Britain campaign, which aims to end the housing crisis within a generation.

In a recent guest blog for Shelter, the Confederation of British Industry’s policy adviser Dave Rubin talked about why the next government needs to prioritise housing. He explained that affordable housing isn’t just a social issue but also an economic one. CBI has found that the housing shortage adds to inflation and transportation costs. It also adversely affects businesses, making it difficult to recruit and retain employees. That’s why housing is at the heart of CBI’s business plan for the new government’s first 100 days.

So what can you do to help make housing a priority this election? Besides voting yourself, you can tell people about the work of Homes for Britain. You can also spread the word that people without permanent accommodation still have the right to vote. Housing will become more prominent as an issue when people who need housing the most are adequately represented in the voting booth. The ‘Your Vote Matters’ campaign by Homeless Link makes it clear that homeless doesn’t mean voteless or powerless.

Alex Charlton