Stay at home to save the NHS has been one of Governments key slogans throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Sensible and sound advice, but what if you don’t have a home!?.
At the time of writing, the UK is in its third lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The vast majority of us are adhering to the Government’s guidelines and staying at home; in fact, we are working, teaching and exercising at home. But what about those who don’t have a roof over their head, how are they sheltering from this pandemic? What are the government guidelines for those who are homeless?
In this article, we’re going to look at how the pandemic has demonstrated the real value of housing associations, co-ops and other bodies that provide affordable homes to people who need them the most. We’ll also look at why investment in affordable housing is essential if the country is to recover from the effects of COVID-19 and lockdowns.
When the dangers of the Coronavirus first emerged, the UK Government took steps to protect homeless people.
The Government organised for every homeless person to stay in empty hotels for the duration of the first lockdown. It was called the ‘everyone in’ policy. Its key objective was to keep homeless people in safer environments and therefore less likely to spread or transmit the virus. Not only did this policy keep these people safe, but it also helped many get their lives back on track.
However, the Government did not repeat this policy for the second or third lockdowns, preferring to delegate provisions for the homeless to local councils. Unfortunately, many of these homeless people are now back on the streets, desperate for a home in the cold February weather. This unfortunate sequence of events has exposed the lack of social housing provision and affordable homes in the UK.
The pandemic’s economic effects mean that many people will be struggling to pay their mortgages or rents, leaving them at risk of losing their homes.
Thousands of people have lost their jobs, especially in the travel and hospitality sectors that have been decimated by the virus. The impact of the furlough scheme has seen many resort to taking mortgage holidays.
There has never been a more critical time to focus on social housing and affordable housing delivery.
Why we need affordable housing
The pandemic has demonstrated the need for well-built, heated, environmentally efficient housing.
We often overlook the perks of renting or owning a home:
- Access to medical facilities and education for children
- A better chance of getting a job
- Open spaces for exercise and better mental health
- Pride – a stable life with a roof over your head
However, for an increasing number of people, being able to afford a home is far out of reach. That is why we need more affordable homes.
The role of housing associations
Housing associations work with local authorities to deliver, allocate and administrate affordable housing. This is an essential service, especially in the aftermath of the pandemic. However, during this unprecedented time, the extra things housing associations can offer a shining light for those in need. It’s so much more than ‘just’ delivering affordable housing.
During the pandemic, housing associations have emerged as centres of the community. They have looked after vulnerable people who cannot get out of their homes for essentials, by delivering food and medicine. They have set up hubs where people can access the internet. They’ve called in on residents to ‘check they’re doing OK’ and even donated hardship funds to people who are really struggling. What’s more, that’s just scratching the surface.
Eventually, this pandemic will end. However, we don’t know what life will be like after the dust has settled. The adverse economic effects could take decades to recover from. Now more than ever, first-time buyers and even those financially affected by the pandemic may struggle to afford a home.
We need to recognise the part that housing associations have played during the Coronavirus pandemic. Then, the government should back up their words with actions and make sure associations get the investment they need to scale up their activities.
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