The Canterbury Hub

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Canterbury: Rising crisis in poverty and housing

The Archbishop of Canterbury is leading the call to end Britain’s housing crisis, stressing the need for a “values-led revolution” in the housing system where policymakers put aside their political differences to deliver a solution by 2050.

Stressing the need for decent homes in a well-functioning housing market in The Big Issue, Archbishop Welby said that the next government must deliver on the “long-held target of building 300,000 new homes each year and slashing the record-high 109,000 households in temporary accommodation by more than half to a maximum of 50,000.” Where policymakers ensure that no more than one in 20 households live below a “decent” housing requirement, and “do not pay more than 35% of their disposable income.”

Everyone should have a home that is a place of comfort, safety, and security in a thriving community where people can flourish,” said Archbishop Welby.

“But for many people in England, home means something very different. It is somewhere that is expensive or temporary, insecure or unhealthy.

“These problems are blighting the lives and futures of millions of people, and we all have a moral responsibility to put it right. We must end the short-termism that is having a corrosive effect on our society and our economy.

“We can do this by agreeing on a single vision of what a real home means and by creating a national housing body, akin to the Climate Change Committee, to help deliver that vision and transform England’s housing system.

“We need to fix the housing crisis by 2050.”

Calling for the government to create a climate-change-style housing committee to tackle the problem, Archbishop Welby and the Church of England have made “A Housing Strategy Committee – modeled on the existing Climate Change Committee” — working with housing experts to create annual reports which promise to hold the government to account, with a rallying cry of “homes for all.”

In Canterbury, Catching Lives has seen a dramatic increase in the number of homeless people dropping into their center, which offers free wi-fi, advice, laundry, food and a shower.

Tasmin Maitland, who runs the centre, said that on any typical night, there are currently around 33 homeless people sleeping rough in the centre of Canterbury with around 35 people coming into the centre daily.

“People are really struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, rising inflation, and rising rents,” she said.

“It is a real challenge, and it impacts people’s physical and mental health.

Catching Lives Centre, Canterbury

“The Department of Levelling has shown a 50% increase in living rough on the streets since February 2023, then there is the hidden homeless that do not get included.”

Porchlight, which offers emergency accommodation in hostels and shared housing, has just had a huge funding cut by Kent County Council, of £1 million, according to Tamsin, which has put pressure on Canterbury’s main safety net for those most in need. A main casualty of the council’s funding cuts, as it is not a legal requirement to deliver or fund supportive housing outside of its own housing policy.

One of the biggest issues is that landlords can raise the rent and throw out tenants with ease if they can no longer afford to pay.

The Renters Reform Bill, which promised to revise Section 21 and had previously allowed landlords to throw out tenants for “any reason,” has now been delayed indefinitely as it now heads to the House of Lords for a review of the courts’ system, potentially allowing the system of evictions to continue.

Adding to the crisis, the new council led by Labour Cllr. Alan Baldock had put the Local Plan 2045 under review, placing a hold on any new development for 9-12 months.

Canterbury is in desperate need of new housing developments that assure cheaper, more affordable housing, and developers must meet a target of at least 30%; in addition, the wastewater issues at Stodmarsh and Sturry, necessitate new wastewater systems being built by developers, as Stodmarsh and Sturry can no longer cope with extra development, which has also ground to a halt the development of Debenhams and Nason’s according to Barton Cllr for Labour, Pat Edwards.

New development in Canterbury provides both jobs and homes.

The rental market has been exasperated further by the hike in mortgage interest rates, which has led many landlords to sell their portfolios, according to local estate agents, leading to a large share of rental properties leaving the market, almost halving what is available.

Many of the estate agents called had no properties available in many categories, offering only one or two properties at extremely high prices outside of the budget of a normal family.

According to the Canterbury Housing Advice Centre (CHAC), the average family in Canterbury cannot afford a monthly rent of £725, yet the average one-bed flat is going for over £1,000 a month, which is outside of their means.

Paul Wilkinson, manager of CHAC, said that over 56% of families in Canterbury cannot afford £725 a month for rent, with homelessness in Canterbury above the national average, with over 40% of children in parts of Canterbury living below the poverty line.

A growing issue that can only be resolved with new affordable housing development, and employment opportunities for Canterbury, which needs to see interest rates coming down and the wastewater issues resolved.

Rebecca Sillence from Winkworth’s said that properties are being let quickly: “As soon as they come in they are gone.”

Saying that, many landlords have sold up, which has placed pressure on the “to let” market due to high interest rates.

Winkworths currently has one property to rent: a three-bed property at £3,500, plus bills, compared with Wards, which has one three-bed at £1,350 a month.

Estate agents, St Margarets Street

Connells said it is a struggle at the moment, with few properties coming on the market compared to four years ago, saying that Covid and rising interest rates have been the main problem.

Nicole Broughton, who works in lettings, said: “Since the interest rates went up, more and more landlords are selling, and the prices of properties are going up as landlords try to cover rising interest rates.”

Connells has a few properties to rent, with one bed at £1,000 a month and a couple of two-beds and three beds at £1,350 to £1,600.

The overall opinion is the market will not get better for a while.