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Editor’s comment: Points system will not solve homelessness

PUBLISHED: 15:30 10 January 2018

Islington Town Hall. Picture: SAM GELDER

Islington Town Hall. Picture: SAM GELDER

Archant

It’s hard to specifically fault the council’s workaround for getting homeless people off the waiting list, but inevitably it does feel like rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic.

The fact is, there aren’t enough council houses in Islington – everyone knows it. The council knows it. The people on the waiting list know it. Even the judge who ruled against Islington Council knew it: “Supply is far outstripped by the demand for this type of housing accommodation,” he admitted.

All the same, it is important that people actually on the list feel they are being treated as fairly as possible, even and especially within a system that is deeply unfair. It’s unfair because Islington, like many London boroughs, has been given an impossible task: manage an enormous waiting list that stretches well into five figures without being able to build more than a handful of new homes each year. Islington is putting up 137 this year – which will cover about 7 per cent of its 18,300 waiting list. If that sounds meagre, consider that 137 is the most it has built in a single year for three decades.

It’s why I was glad to see the town hall on Thursday formally adopt a special planning policy governing the Holloway Prison land that means developers should promise to cough up at least 50 per cent “genuinely affordable” homes if they want a crack at the site.

But in the meantime, families are stuck on the waiting list in unsuitable temporary homes for years at a time. Homeless families can’t find housing without being forcibly leapfrogged over other, also deserving, people.

Housing is broken thanks to nearly 40 years of governments stifling building and encouraging selloffs. It will not be fixed by this or that amendment to one borough’s allocations policy.

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