The announcement at this week’s Tory party conference by the communities secretary Sajid Javid of a £5bn boost to housebuilding can be seen in part as a belated recognition of the explosion of housing insecurity in Tory heartlands – a crisis the prime minister has hinted at with her promise to help those families on low to middle incomes who are “just managing” to get by.
However, if proof were needed that the problem of homelessness is no longer reserved for its metropolitan heartlands but has rippled out into the commuter cities and market towns of middle England, it is the housing crisis that exploded this summer in Peterborough, landing the city’s Tory-controlled council with a potential £1m bill for putting up homeless families in local Travelodge hotels.
In April, the city experienced an unexpected spike in homeless households. In a single month, 150 families were accepted as needing housing support– equivalent to more than a third of the total number who were rehoused in the whole of last year. A chronic shortage of temporary accommodation meant the council had nowhere to put them but the Travelodge. Currently, about 40-50 homeless families are resident in the city’s three hotels at any one time, costing the council up to £588 a week per family, and they stay for an average of 20 nights.