Observer Column 6 January 2023
Health depends on housing
So much in the news this week about the state of our health service. Yes, the NHS is ours. We all pay for it and care passionately that it can look after us as well as possible.
But there are so many reasons why it is struggling, lack of investment including underpaid and overworked nurses, 100,000 plus vacancies, how hard we have made it for doctors and nurses from around the world to work here, and a population that lives longer. And COVID-19.
However I worry that much of the illness post COVID-19 is down to the state of our housing. Living in poorly maintained damp accommodation drains people physically and emotionally, and leaves us all more open to infection. Stress kills. And the biggest stress of all for many these days is not having a home at all. Waiting for the landlord to serve you notice, unable to afford enough heating on top of the rent. And feeling unsupported by the state. Government haven't increased Local Housing Allowance for 12 years now, have promised but failed to abolish S21 notices (which allow 'no fault' evictions) and watered down any real regulation of landlords, public and private, as rents soar.
So record numbers are now homeless or worried sick that they will be soon.
More than 1000 people are now in temporary accommodation provided by Hastings Borough Council. And we can't find enough decent places locally, so homeless families, often at their lowest ebb, are being sent to Kent and all over Sussex, away from their friends and family support networks.
So I was delighted at the Cabinet meeting this week to approve a report agreeing to buy houses for homeless people in Hastings. This will provide stability for families locally while they get their lives back together and find a long-term home. And stability for the council's finances too, as over time, this will save money compared to renting from private landlords.
We will start with 50 properties over the next two years. If this works well, I would want to expand this as I believe in Hastings homes for Hastings people.
And if we can relieve some pressure on the NHS as well, even better.
Council Leader's column