Headlines: October 21st, 2004

The homelessness charity Shelter is launching a national investigation into housing after an opinion survey showed that seven out of ten people believe that Britain is in the middle of a housing crisis. The poll, conducted for Shelter by MORI, shows that house prices are seen as the biggest housing problem.In the Shelter survey 74 per cent of respondents cited prices as the main housing issue. Other areas of concern were run down estates, mentioned by six out of ten people, children living in bad housing, 36 per cent, and high rents which were highlighted by 34 per cent of people.

In the light of the findings Shelter is joining forces with a number of high profile people to carry out what it believes will be a unique national investigation to establish the real extent of the problems across the country. Shelter says the investigation will be the next stage of its million children campaign and will take place against a growing public debate on the environmental impact of large-scale house building.

The National Housing investigation panel will be chaired by the journalist Fiona Millar and will include businessman and government adviser Lord Haskins, Wayne Hemingway who co-founded the fashion label Red or Dead, and the hip hop performer Shystie, who grew up in overcrowding in London. The panel will visit four areas of the country during the next two months and will take evidence from a cross section of people including health workers, local politicians and teachers who witness the effects of the housing crisis on a daily basis through their work. Members of the panel will also meet families living in poor conditions.

Fiona Millar, said that as a parent as well as a journalist with an interest in children and education she was aware that poverty, education and parenting were recognised as central to the outcome of children’s lives but that housing, which was one of the most significant factors in a child’s development, was often overlooked.

Shelter’s director, Adam Sampson, said it was so important that people such as Fiona Millar had agreed to hear first hand about the impact of bad housing on children’s lives and he hoped the investigation would open people’s eyes to the severity of what he called, “the hidden housing crisis”

The panel will begin its work in London on October 28th with a particular focus on housing supply, including overcrowding and homelessness. It will be in the south west in mid-November to look at rural housing issues, including affordability and second homes and later in the month will travel to Edinburgh where it will focus on housing inequality, including the growing disparity between those at the top and the bottom of the housing ladder. Finally the investigation will move to the north west of England where the key issues will be increasing levels of homelessness and problems of low demand for housing and neighbourhood decline in some areas.