THE DIRECTOR of one of Britain's most respected housing charities has described as "obscene" the values underlying current Government housing policy.
As a result of these policies housing stocks are deteriorating so rapidly that shortly huge slum clearance programmes on a post-war scale will be required, claimed Sheila McKechie, director of Shelter.
"No aspect of Government spending has been cut as severely as housing", said Ms McKechie, delivering the annual Maisie Ward Shead Memorial Lecture in I,ondon last Friday. She detailed a dramatic fall in the level of house building over the past ten years and a rapid increase in the number of homeless over the same period.
But, she said, nothing illustrated So well "the obscene r aloes which underpin our current housing policy" as the treatment of the young. Ms McKechle described the fate of a number of young people affected by the Gurernment's decision to restrict housing benefit to the homeless under 26.
"Pete, aged 19, has been sleeping in a curpark since his benefit was cut. His father has remarried and moved away from the area; his mother lives in a one-room bedsit. Neither can take him in."
She said that Shelter had dealt with 500 similar cases of homelessness caused by the regulations before they were Judged illegal. The Government has promised to reintroduce them and Ms McKechie said that she expected to deal with mans more such cases.
The housing shortage, she said, had forced Shelter to defend "the only accommodation that remains. cheap bed and breakfast hotels, rooms shared with strangers, where the fire risk is nine times greater than other accommodation, where some ruthless landlords can make huge sums in profit exploiting the desperation of the young." It was "the economies of the mad-house."
Reversing these policies was going to be difficult. The Government had achieved "great political success" with the other side of the housing coin — "the raising of owner occupation to the level of the eleventh commandment: "Thou shalt own thine own house."
It was a policy which made great sense to and benefited the better off. But "it does not work for the poor, the old, the young and the single parents".
• "Decent housing is a basic need, a right not a concession", Archbishop Derek Worlock of Liverpool told a housing conference in Blackpool this week. Reiterating the points made by the bishops' conference in their February document Housing is a moral issue, the Archbishop concluded: "The housing issue will not go away on its own . . . It is a mpral issue and as such must touch the conscience of the nation: urgently."