When Keir Starmer asked about the Tories abandoning targets for house building last week, the PM sought to make light of it and claimed it was about respect for local democracy.
It means he’s ditching the long-held ambition to build 300,000 new homes per year and finally get to grips with our housing crisis.
His decision is based on two things: achieving the target would require government funding and appears to be part of the hidden cuts in the Chancellor’s financial statement, and at least 60 Tory MPs have threatened to rebel because they don’t want new homes in their backyards.
We can’t be sure about all the people we see begging on our streets, but I think it’s fair to say anyone sleeping out in present temperatures isn’t doing it by choice. Rough sleeping is just one aspect of homelessness. Those living in temporary accommodation, hostels and shelters are also effectively homeless and then there’s the sofa surfers, often young people, or victims of a relationship breakdown, who must cadge a night here and there from family and friends.
The homeless charity Crisis says there will be at least 227,000 homeless this Christmas. The government claims the figure is much lower and there are obviously different ways of counting and identifying the exact number. Although, as far as this government’s concerned, I can’t help but think, to paraphrase Mandy Rice Davies, they would say that, wouldn’t they?
There’s no disputing the shock claim from Birmingham City Council that people on their waiting lists might wait up to 20 years for a house.
This Christmas will be miserable for many. It won’t be happy for the children stuck in hostels, in single cold and grubby bedrooms, or those frightened and freezing on the streets.
We need many more houses – that’s why the target existed. We need them in Birmingham and across the country, and that’s why the PM was wrong to back down in the face of threats from his Nimby MPs.
He was elected to build more homes, among many other things. His latest decision will only make the situation worse.