“Mixed communities matter. Current policy changes in welfare policy and housing policy threaten to undermine further the existence of these communities. Low cost housing is disappearing, and what low cost housing exists will become unaffordable to the majority of people, drastically changing the demographic make-up of our city. "
After consistently falling for years, homelessness is once again on the rise and figures released recently show that nearly 40,000 people in London live in temporary accommodation. This is affected by a whole host of factors, including:
- The housing benefit cap which will drive more people into poverty. Where properties are available, it will force people to move to cheaper areas, leading to the breakdown of established social networks and communities.
- Extending the Right To Buy reduces the already vastly inadequate stock of social housing. Across the capital, more than 360,000 people are on council waiting lists.
- Artificial cap on councils borrowing means that housing associations and councils cannot borrow what they need to build new homes, which are desperately needed.
- There are almost five million people in Britain who are not earning a living wage and therefore are working hard but still cannot afford to feed their families or heat their homes, and struggle to meet transport costs.
Individual debt is rising; Citizens Advice said it had seen the number of clients with debts including payday loans rise from 1% in the first quarter of 2009/10 to 10% in the same period of 2012.[i]
Unemployment is still unacceptably high at around 8% and there has been a decrease in the real value of wages, meaning that people in low paid work or part time work are finding it particularly hard to make ends meet.
Young people are finding it especially difficult to get decent employment. The education and training systems that we have in place are letting young people down. They do not equip people for the workplace, or encourage personal development, creativity and initiative.
There is increasing food poverty in urban areas with more people resorting to the use of food banks. Diet and lifestyle related illnesses such as type II diabetes and obesity are on the rise.
The food system is under increasing stress from a variety of socio-economic factors including:
- Increasing food prices
- Climate change
- Food waste
- Food scares
The situation to which we are responding in terms of the environment is one of uncertainty. Whilst we are all aware of climate change, none of us knows precisely in what ways it will affect us or how extreme and consistent the effects will be.
We need to take practical steps to address all of this.