Architects have warned that a government-funded drive to create new homes for rough sleepers, while welcome, will not solve homelessness
Around 2,400 homeless people are due to be rehoused through the government’s Single Homelessness Accommodation Programme (SHAP), which launched last September.
The homes, which must be completed within three years, will be provided through a bidding process at the local level. The total funding available is £270 million.
London mayor Sadiq Khan said he would find housing for 800 homeless people in the capital by 2025 thanks to a £70 million slice of the funding announced last month (24 January).
The homes will be delivered by registered providers working in partnership with local authorities and are expected to target 18-to-24-year-olds. It remains unclear what form they will take, and whether they will be modular or retrofitted existing buildings.
HTA Design partner Mike De’Ath said that although this initiative would help ‘transform’ the lives of London’s rough sleepers, it would not fix the wider issues of homelessness.
‘The industry needs to take a holistic approach to ensure these homes are delivered to transform people’s lives both in the short and long term,’ he said.
‘Ultimately though, tackling homelessness goes beyond housing delivery, and the provision of shelter isn’t a silver bullet. Government funding also needs to address the socioeconomic conditions that lead to homelessness.’
De’Ath highlighted youth homelessness charity Centrepoint’s work providing 35 modular homes in Peckham, which will house people previously sleeping on the street, as an example of how the industry could collaborate using off site construction methods to solve homelessness.
Levitt Bernstein director Jo McCafferty echoed De’Ath’s call for a solution to the housing crisis that was in turn leading to people becoming homeless. She called the latest housing programme ‘only a sticking plaster’.
McCafferty told the AJ: ‘We are all elbow deep in housing and regeneration projects, where viability is worsening on a daily basis, where planning processes are delayed, where stretched programmes are jeopardising the funding that does exist, despite the admirable efforts of City Hall.
‘All of these factors are rapidly slowing the delivery of social housing when people need it the most, when the cost of living is making access to good housing even less attainable for so many, and daily life is such a struggle.’
Heather Macey, of the Architects Aware! think tank, told the AJ that any new housing needed to be provided alongside new support services – particularly for young rough sleepers, whose numbers rose during the pandemic.
She told the AJ: ‘Youth homelessness is a complex problem which has been further exasperated during the pandemic.
‘Our research has shown that the emergency accommodation currently on offer to young people is substandard, often in poorly converted buildings, and frequently with no privacy, security or space for social support.’
Macey, whose think tank has called for unused buildings in London to be turned into homeless shelters, added: ‘Purpose-built emergency shelters for young people at risk of or suffering from homelessness are barely in existence at all.
‘A lack of design guidance around this area of housing provision – as well as almost no discernible clear policy to implement these types of projects – makes their delivery an uphill struggle.’
Following the announcement, the mayor of London said: ‘We can’t do this alone, and to end rough sleeping in our capital, particularly amid the cost of living crisis, the government must intervene to prevent the circumstances that lead to people sleeping rough before thousands more are forced to face a winter on the streets.’
Under the mayor’s announcement, capital funding will be made available for homes starting construction from April 2023 and completing before March 2025.
Jo McCafferty, director, Levitt Bernstein:
Whilst entirely endorsing the mayor’s much-needed increased funding for housing for rough sleepers, and the vital work of Crisis and St Mungo’s, the SHAP is only a sticking plaster to solve a broader housing problem across the capital. This is emergency funding for the most vulnerable, not a long-term solution. Ultimately, the basis of any broader and deeper answer to our housing problems must come down to the total quantum of state funding available for social housing and easy access to these funds.
This is only a sticking plaster
We are all elbow-deep in housing and regeneration projects, where viability is worsening on a daily basis, where planning processes are delayed, where stretched programmes are jeopardising the funding that does exist, despite the admirable efforts of City Hall. All of these factors are rapidly slowing the delivery of social housing when people need it the most, when the cost of living is making access to good housing even less attainable for so many, and daily life is such a struggle.
If I sound angry, it is because I am. Very. Invest in high-quality housing for all, as crucial, vital infrastructure, and the burden on our health, social care and education systems will dramatically reduce. It is a fact. We need a government that understands this and has the moral conscience to commit to a radical, nationwide social housing programme. It is that simple.
Source: Architects Journal