Charities criticise ‘inappropriate’ government move
Homeless could live in boats and caravans
English councils will be allowed to house homeless people in caravans and houseboats from next year, the Communities and Local Government department has said.
Under plans outlined in the Localism Bill, homeless people will not be able to refuse private sector accommodation if a council offers it to them. Councils can currently only discharge their homelessness duty by providing social housing.
This week, the CLG went a step further and confirmed that caravans, mobile homes and houseboats could be used to house people in some circumstances, provided the accommodation could be ruled ‘suitable’.
This means it must meet quality and space standards and be affordable. Last year, 61,000 households were recognised as newly homeless.
A CLG spokesperson said: ‘This has a role to play but the government isn’t trying to shirk its responsibility of providing long-term homes for people.’ The spokesperson added that the department did not expect caravans and boats ‘to be much used’ by councils.
Duncan Shrubsole, head of strategy and policy at homelessness charity Crisis, said: ‘While a houseboat or caravan might be suitable for a small number of households, for the vast majority they are not an appropriate housing option and they should not be a substitute for building the new homes we so desperately need.’
Alastair Murray, deputy director of Housing Justice, said the move seemed ‘a bit desperate’.
The news emerged after housing minister Grant Shapps outlined plans this week to allow councils to claim a share of the £1 billion new homes bonus if they used mooring space to house people on boats.
The CLG spokesperson confirmed that the bonus, under which the government matches the council tax on new properties for the first six years, would be extended to all properties liable for council tax, including houseboats and static caravans.
Kay Boycott, director of communications, policy and campaigns at Shelter, said: ‘The new homes bonus will not be enough to solve this escalating [housing] crisis, particularly when spending on house building has been cut by more than 60 per cent.’