Having a roof over your head is one of life essentials. A home that is safe, secure and comfortable provides stability and contributes towards wellbeing.
Yet we are facing a housing crisis which is especially affecting London but also people countrywide. A lack of decent affordable homes means many are forced to sofa surf among friends or put up with substandard accommodation. Or face the reality of having nowhere to live at all.
The Government's housing and planning bill, which received its second reading in the House of Lords last week, could have addressed these issues. Instead, this controversial legislation threatens to undermine the chance of a secure future for those most in need. This includes those recovering from substance misuse or who have a mental health issue. Safe, secure and reliable housing is essential in their continuing recovery. Having somewhere to call home can mean the difference between turning your life around or plunging deeper into crisis.
Compared with the general population, people with mental health conditions are one-and-a-half times more likely to live in rented housing. If this bill becomes law, they are among those who stand to lose out most. Take 47-year-old Lee who has a degree in engineering but has suffered various mental health issues. He's a resident at one of Turning Point's services and each one of his four applications for housing has been rejected. Various proposals in the bill mean Lee's chances of securing a home, gaining employment and moving on with his life will become even slimmer.
Those like Lee will suffer for example because of the Government's determination to extend right-to-buy. Not everyone wants to own their own home, and the danger is social tenants will be faced with even less availability of rented accommodation. Shelter has warned the bill will lead to 180,000 fewer affordable homes to rent and buy over five years.
Nearly 10,000 homes under right-to-buy have been sold off in London alone over the past three years. The Government says they will be replaced 'as quickly as possible.' Yet the maths don't add up. Unless the process is speeded up, people will be stuck in residential mental health and rehabilitation care.
We need a guarantee that there will be enough built to support those suffering from ongoing health issues. The Chartered Institute of Housing has highlighted the fact that appropriate accommodation is a key factor in supporting recovery. It provides a foundation from which people can get or hold down a job for example.
This is echoed in the feedback we get from people we support. For people who have issues with alcohol or mental health, access to stable housing is vitally important in the recovery process and they feel unsettled without it. It makes them worry about the future, where they will go, how they will survive if they have to live on the streets.
However, the Government wants to scrap the lifetime right to live in a property. This will remove one of the last remaining secure types of housing available to people who cannot afford home ownership. It will leave people at the mercy of the insecurities of spiralling private rents and sky-high housing prices
We need a housing bill that supports stability, recovery, progress and independence, not only for those who are currently working and able. It must be ambitious enough to support a future population that could be working and able to work if they only had access to secure housing. We talk about people caught in the 'revolving door' syndrome of recovery and relapse. Having a place to call home can make all the difference in breaking that cycle for good.