Secure, decent housing for all is the hallmark of a good society, Cardinal Vincent Nichols has said, as charities are urging the Government to tackle the rent debt crisis in an effort to prevent rising homelessness.
The Rent Debt coalition of charities, tenants groups and landlord organisations has sent a joint letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak ahead of next month’s budget, calling for private renters to be given emergency financial support to pay off ‘Covid arrears’, along with adequate welfare support to keep renters in their homes and prevent rising homelessness.
It comes as the Commission of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York on Housing, Church and Community has published a report, titled Coming Home – tackling the housing crisis together, in which they state that ‘good housing should be sustainable, safe, stable, sociable and satisfying’.
They also note that simply building more houses, whilst important, is not sufficient to address the prolonged housing issues the country continues to face.
‘We need more truly affordable homes and stronger communities that people can be proud of and where they can feel safe and welcome, put down roots and flourish,’ they say.
In welcoming the “timely” report, Cardinal Nichols said: “The provision of secure, decent housing for all is a hallmark of a good society. The fact that some eight million of our fellow citizens are today living in overcrowded, unaffordable or unsuitable housing in one of the richest countries on earth should shame us. So too should the fact that over 4,000 people will sleep rough in England tonight.”
He said the archbishops’ report puts forward “a positive vision of what makes for good homes and proposes an extended programme of co-operation in order to achieve this vision”.
“The report asks for action, not just from government, but from all of us. Change for the better can only be achieved by a radical reshaping of calculations involved in the provision of housing and by a wide and generous co-operation between us all.”
Meanwhile, in its letter to the Chancellor, the Rent Debt coalition warns that at least half a million private renters are in arrears due to the economic impact of Covid-19 and cannot keep tenancies going without additional financial support.
It calls for a targeted financial package to help renters pay off arrears built since lockdown measures started last March, as well as a welfare system that provides renters with the security of knowing that they can afford their homes.
‘We urge the chancellor to act now to avoid renters being scarred by debts they have no hope of clearing and a wave of people having to leave their homes in the weeks and months to come,’ it says.
Picture: An aerial view of houses.