Rough sleepers lay in their makeshift beds outside closed shops, at daybreak on Oxford Street in London on August 2, 2023. Homeless has soared across Britain where a cost of living crisis has left many struggling to make ends meet. The CPRE charity said o
Organisations working with vulnerable populations have expressed concern that prioritising citizens could lead to increased discrimination and marginalisation. AFP News

Rishi Sunak has been cautioned that the government's contemplation of granting higher priority for social housing to UK families might lead to an increase in homelessness.

In a joint letter addressed to the prime minister, groups representing councils, housing professionals, and charities stressed the universal right to secure housing, irrespective of one's origin.

The letter emphasised that further rationing of "already scarce resources" would not effectively address the fundamental failures of the past four decades.

This statement comes ahead of the anticipated launch of a consultation on the potential acceleration of social housing access for British citizens.

The proposed policy is aimed in part at bolstering Sunak's reputation for taking a tough stance on immigration.

However, it has sparked discontent within some government circles, with concerns that it could strengthen support for the populist right.

Housing experts have also raised objections, asserting that the policy might be either illegal, unworkable, or both.

The letter sent to the prime minister underscores the significance of securing safe housing for everyone, regardless of their background.

The signatories argue that addressing the housing crisis requires tackling the fundamental shortcomings that have persisted over the past 40 years rather than further restricting already limited resources.

The proposal, initially suggested by certain policymakers and housing advocates, aims to give UK citizens precedence in accessing social housing over non-citizens.

Proponents argue that this approach is essential for safeguarding the interests of British residents and addressing the increasing demand for affordable housing.

However, detractors are voicing concerns that such a policy may inadvertently intensify the homelessness crisis and contribute to social inequalities.

Advocates of the proposal emphasise the need to prioritise locals in social housing allocation, asserting that it would ensure the limited resources available are directed towards British citizens who have long been on waiting lists for affordable accommodation.

The intention is to address the housing crisis and alleviate the pressure on social housing resources by focusing on the needs of the domestic population.

Critics, on the other hand, contend that such a policy could have unintended consequences, potentially exacerbating homelessness among vulnerable groups, including immigrants, refugees, and those without stable citizenship status.

They argue that a blanket prioritisation based on citizenship may overlook the diverse needs of individuals and families, many of whom contribute significantly to the UK society.

Organisations working with vulnerable populations have expressed concern that prioritising citizens could lead to increased discrimination and marginalisation.

Additionally, they worry that this approach may deter individuals from seeking assistance due to fear of being excluded from essential services, thereby pushing them further into the margins of society.

The homelessness crisis in the UK is a complex issue that demands a comprehensive and inclusive solution.

While the proposal aims to address the housing shortage, critics argue that a more nuanced approach is required. They suggest that policies should consider factors such as vulnerability, income levels, and family size to ensure that those most in need receive the necessary support.

"We all deserve safe housing, regardless of where we are from. Further rationing of an already scarce resource does not address the fundamental failures of the last 40 years – we have simply not built the homes the UK needs to ensure everybody has a safe and secure place to live," the letter states.

Social housing was initially designed to assist those facing the most severe needs, and government data highlights that 90 per cent of recent social housing allocations benefit UK nationals.

However, the demand for social housing remains high across all regions, leading to extensive waiting lists.

"Imposing extended qualification periods before people can even get on the housing register is likely to force more people into homelessness. If the government's main concern is to increase the availability of social lettings, it could achieve this far more effectively by building more social housing," it adds.

As discussions unfold, policymakers must carefully consider the long-term implications of such measures to avoid unintentionally exacerbating the already challenging issue of homelessness in the UK.