Homeless families are living in hostels and hotels, 45,000+ households are on the waiting list, and more than a thousand are in asylum accommodation - not even considered fully human yet by the UK Home Office. Many more are living in housing stress, in dilapidated homes, at the mercy of unregulated landlords propped up by the welfare state and paid millions in housing benefit every year to temporarily keep the homeless off the streets.
‘Temporary’ is the new permanent because our collective capacity to provide social housing has delivered only around 1000 units per year for the last fifteen years, regardless of which political party has held the housing brief. And all this despite a vast portfolio of vacant public land and property, 20 housing associations and thousands of staff working on everything from emergency accommodation and advice to policy formation and construction.
Maybe this time, though, things will be different?
Maybe the new Minister for Communities, Gordon Lyons, on his first day at the office will dramatically sweep the table clean of hundreds of failed policies - pages raining down like confetti everywhere - to the cheers of tired civil servants who’ve been waiting all of their lives for this man of vision and action to come in and shake things up.
The ‘Lyons for Land Justice’ initiative will be declared; and a new wave of confidence and purpose will wash over the departmental staff and the entire housing sector.
The Minister will order the immediate development of a strategy to tackle religious inequality in social housing provision, breathing life back into the hollowed out Section 75 obligations his department has ignored for two decades and targeting resources directly at the well-evidenced inequalities identified already by public servants and United Nations Special Rapporteurs and Treaty Bodies. Homes for all – based on need not creed – old, young, black, white, disabled, male, female, trans, nonbinary, LGBTQIA, carer, parent, young free and single, Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Sikh, Jew, agnostic, Traveller, unionist, nationalist, dissenter – the list is not exhaustive – wherever need exists Lyons’ Land Justice League will go.
The Minister will order that all vacant land and property controlled by public authorities is assessed for its potential to build new neighbourhoods - setting a conservative target of at least 5,000 units for the Housing Executive and Housing Associations in the first year – about 230 odd units each to get started.
The Minister will lead by example, declaring that the first initiative to get the go ahead is the much loved community led Take Back the City master-plan, developed by homeless families and international experts to deliver over 750 units of sustainable and inclusive housing
The Minister’s colleagues, both elected and unelected, in Councils and other departments, with powers over finance and planning will set aside their political differences and petty agendas to rally around, welcoming the new targets and committing to grease the wheels of the planning process as efficiently as possible.
The Minister will lead by example, declaring that the first initiative to get the go ahead is the much loved community led Take Back the City master-plan, developed by homeless families and international experts to deliver over 750 units of sustainable and inclusive housing to accommodate a growing multicultural population on the Department’s own land at the Mackies site – a new flagship peace project, promoting integration and investment in the area of greatest poverty and social housing need in the city.
The Take Back The City families, whose repeated requests to meet with Ministers and officials have been ignored, will be provided with a permanent seat at the table of the Land Justice League advising on transformative peace building projects across the region for decades to come.
Maybe this time.
To support the Lyons for Land Justice initiative click here and follow the on screen instructions.