Five Ideas to tackle housing need in Oxford during, and beyond the Coronavirus Pandemic

When the government announced quietly in mid-May, amidst the furore surrounding the easing of lockdown measures, that funding for hotel stays for people rough sleeping was to be withdrawn, many asked ‘what next’? We’ve pulled together 5 ideas-in-progress from our work on housing and homelessness that we think could help tackle housing need in Oxford. You can read the full article on Medium.

Whilst no two people’s journeys into, or out of homelessness are the same there is a single, unifying experience: the lack of a decent, affordable and secure home. A house can’t always ‘solve’ homelessness, but it’s a good place to start. So as the government grasps for empty rhetoric and piecemeal solutions, here are five ideas to give as many people in Oxford as possible a decent place to live, now.

  1. Create many more social homes, without building. Buying unsold developers stock, or properties from the open market, or sing Compulsory Purchase Orders to breath life into empty homes could boost our supply of social homes over night. Good for people and the planet.
  2. Bring empty and underused buildings back to life. Making the most of meanwhile use and nurturing the organisations that enable it could help us utilise empty flats above shops, hotels, or commercial properties as good quality move-on accommodation, and better finance models.
  3. Repurpose empty student lets. Accommodating young people experiencing homelessness alongside peers who are studying could provide stable accommodation and new networks.
  4. Use modular and moveable housing to make the most of small and tricky urban sites. Combining architectural innovation and the knowledge of the community-led housing sector could foster the low-carbon, convivial neighbourhoods which our city sorely needs.
  5. Join a union! Adding our voices to the renters rights movement. Could building on our experiences of mutual aid networks and encouraging people from all different backgrounds and experiences of housing help build a powerful renters rights movement in Oxford?

These ideas don’t offer an alternative to the hard work that has started and must continue; to build social housing, to reconsider houses as homes and not assets and to reform the private rental sector. But they do offer hope for providing people with decent places to live in a manner which might inch us closer to longer term reform. They draw on many well-tested precedents and follow the findings of our own research as to what might work for Oxford. If you would like to help us improve these ideas, or help to make them happen then we would love to hear from you.