Housing and homelessness Essay

Housing policies are scrutinized by studying the market forces. The forces of supply and demand efficiently distribute housing which depends on the level of competition. The presence of numerous sellers and purchasers also determines the market forces of housing policies. However in reality housing policies are determined by a small group of players who dominate the market. Numerous factors determine the housing policies of national governments. These can include the brunt of location which prevents the housing market from creating competition and rivalry. Housing market is based on extensive borrowing which is given out by financial institutions on the basis of optimistic future reports. The housing market is mostly uncertain which leads to regulation by the government. The prices of the housing market are totally dependant on the sellers and buyers of property. One of the negative aspects of housing policies is that it can lead to homelessness which might be due to the focus on profit. British housing policies have been characterized by their regulations for creating minimum criteria for housing (Barlow 47, 1994). It is also determined by the influence of the private sector in controlling rent. Another feature of the housing policy has been to provide social rented housing. The government in recent years has focused on housing quality. It has also aimed at subsidizing the standards of housing because of presence of resources (Gordon 72, 1997). This paper studies the link between the lack of affordable housing and impact on homelessness. It studies the housing principles of the United Kingdom to investigate the link between housing and homelessness.

Owner occupied and private rented sector

British housing policy is heavily regulated and dominated by the state which spends more than three percent of the GDP on housing policy. There are several types of housing schemes in the United Kingdom. One of them is the owner occupied sector which accounts for fifty percent of British housing. Owners are provided relief in the form of tax concessions on house interest payments. Other forms of protection are also provided which can include support for new buyers. The owner occupied sector is plagued by numerous problems which include the poor maintenance regulations among low income communities (Dunleavy 79, 2005). Other problems include poor condition of houses for elderly owners, pressure by divorced individuals for homes, and rising mortgage expenses for the government. The private rented sector has been declining since the 1990s but remains about one third of the households in the United Kingdom. This sector is large as compared with other sectors. It is based in large cities like London and Glasgow (Cole 45, 2006). The decline of this sector has been because of government support for other housing programs and the establishment of rent controls. Elderly people, immigrants, young people, ethnic minorities, and asylum seekers form the majority of inhabitants of the private rented sector. The sector has been facing problems like poor standards of living, poor maintenance of houses, movement of young people into low quality rental units, and the arrival of huge immigrant families in small houses. The private rented sector has been witnessing a steady decline since 1990.


Research has concluded that adequate housing is vital for solving social problems. The private rented sector has become affordable only because of regulations in rent control. Owner occupation has been the fastest growing form of housing which has been supported by tax concessions and rent increases (Richards 11, 2008). Homelessness remains the most serious social problem in the United Kingdom. A rising proportion of men and women have been experiencing homelessness. Street children can be found in some areas of the United Kingdom. Research has found that an estimated two hundred thousand shanty town dwellers live in the United Kingdom (Rex 75, 2004). An estimated two hundred thousand immigrants also are homeless. Still other immigrants sleep on the floors of their relatives or friends. The increase in homelessness has baffled researchers because of the high rates of household formation and immigration. Unemployment and poor social security systems have been identified as the leading cause of homelessness. Homelessness people are usually unemployed people in their thirties, lack social security support, drug abusers, immigrants, and those who have spent time in psychiatric institutes (Tamar 5, 2008). The shortage of adequate housing has been a major problem for the British government. There are numerous reasons for the shortage which can include second homes, living in the wrong place or vacancy surpluses. The result of housing problems is that people with the minimum resources will find difficulty in obtaining a house. Housing shortages can increase prices and increase homelessness. Homelessness is a complex problem which depends on the circumstances of the homeless people.

Link between housing and homelessness

Homelessness occurs according to the status of homeless people. The shortage of adequate housing is one of the primary causes of homelessness. The lack of places for people to live occurs because markets determine the price and cost of housing. People belonging to low social and economic classes are vulnerable as they might not be able to afford adequate housing. Homeless people cannot afford to purchase or rent houses which create a system of deprivation and exclusion. Sometimes the characteristics of homeless people like alcohol and drug abuse are attributed to creating social situations which breed homelessness. Poor people have limited choices in their ability to purchase or rent houses (Economist, 2008). They obtain houses at the least chosen places. Applicants for social housing are given a choice which results in them exercising the choice. Housing policy in the United Kingdom is classified according to possession. Research has found that owner occupation has been increasing by sixty percent in the United Kingdom while private renting has witnessed a decline (Fyson 13, 2008).

People belonging to low income groups live in social rented housing schemes. Owner occupation has been the primary housing policy of British governments since the 1960s. Building societies spearheaded owner occupation schemes based on social and non profit principles. Owners can include people who have purchased the houses by paying off their mortgages (Williams 40, 2008). Ownership policies have been promoted towards people with low income but have been hindered by numerous problems. These problems have included financial hardships, legal problems, structural problems and vulnerability to market forces.


Local authority housing grew in the United Kingdom during the 1950s. The housing was initially meant for workers. It also focused on people who were cleared from slums. Council housing was meant to create estates on locations which were cleared of slums. Tax subsidies were launched which favored the construction of high rise buildings. During the 1970s, housing policy significantly changed as the concept of council housing was dropped (Willis 20, 2008). Housing benefits have gradually replaced tax subsidies during the 1980s. Private rented housing has also declined because of poor maintenance standards and abuse by landlords. The government launched the Rents Acts of the 1960s to protect tenants from abuses by landlords. The government further deregulated the sector in the 1980s. Private rented housing survives in some limited markets such as for tourists and students. Estates which house poor people have been the subject of criticism because of their numerous problems. These poor areas have inadequate space for children which lead to vandalism. Large items of rubbish are present in these areas as the cost for removing it is high. The maintenance of homes is not adequate due to shortage of equipment and money. Housing is shunned by people because of the economic and social problems. High rise buildings face serious problems like inadequate water, insecurity, vandalism, rubbish, graffiti, dirty lifts, and isolation. Housing conditions are poor in the cities because many houses are old and poor condition. Housing policy of the British government has been criticized because it has focused on the inner cities (Morris 13, 2008). Poor people do not live in the inner cities while the definition of deprived areas has been subject to scrutiny.


The link between housing and homelessness has been proved as the major factor which occurs due to the lack of adequate housing for homeless people. Homeless people are characterized by their circumstances. Usually they are people in their late 30s, are recent immigrants, belong to poor economic and social groups, have a history of alcohol or drug abuse, and have served time in psychiatric institutions. Research has found that huge costs of housing in the United Kingdom forces poor people to have limited choices because they lack the resources to have access to adequate housing. British housing policy is heavily regulated by the state as it spends three percent of the GDP. Several types of housing schemes are available in the United Kingdom. Owner occupied property consists of tax concessions for owners while purchasing houses. This sector has numerous problems such as mortgage expenses for the government and poor condition of houses. Private rental schemes are another form of housing which has been in decline since the 1990s. This sector has been declining because the government has been pumping money into other housing schemes. Rent controls and regulations have also diminished this sector. This sector has been ideal for tourists, students, and ethnic immigrants. Housing problems in the United Kingdom continue to increase the number of homeless people. Housing schemes are beset by vandalism, crime, rubbish, graffiti, poor maintenance standards, dirty lifts, and lack of spaces for children. People prefer to purchase bad houses in good areas rather than live in bad areas.


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D Gordon, C Pantazis, 1997, Breadline Britain in the 1990s, Avebury.

P Dunleavy, 2005, The politics of mass housing in Britain, OUP.

I Cole, R Furbey, 2006, The eclipse of council housing, Routledge.

J Rex, 2004, The ghetto and the underclass, Avebury.

Tamar Wilner 2008. Scots social homes rent rise fear. Regeneration Renewal, June 6, 5. 

Britain: Throwing in the keys; Homebuilders. 2008. The Economist, July 5

Anthony Fyson 2008. Fyson on crumbs of comfort in turning private home building downturn to affordable housing advantage. Planning, May 23, 13

Ben Willis 2008. Rethinking spaces for inner city family homes. Planning, May 23, 20.

Huw Morris 2008. House building slowdown points to flawed government idealism. Planning, May 2, 13

Tim Williams 2008. Social landlords must take the lead. Regeneration & Renewal, January 18, 40.

Sarah Richards 2007. Key questions about housing. Planning, August 10, 11.

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