Margaret Thatcher's policies on the right-to-buy decimated a valuable housing resource, while the long standing failure to allow local government to build has exacerbated demand to now critical levels. What's more, the government's policies on housing – as was often in the past – abandon one important group: single people.
It is time for a new debate over statutory rights for housing for all single people. Social housingshould exist as a resource for all who find themselves unable to participate in the private housing market. There is no rational reason for targeting single people or for regarding us as having less need of a roof over our heads than anyone else.
Already single people are marginalised unless they are parents. In practice, even at times when there has been a concerted effort to meet the housing needs of the UK population there has always been scarcity, so allocation policyfor social housing has always left single people at the hopeless end of a long queue.
The current government's policies, however, directly target single people through cuts in housing allowances and other benefits. There is a serious risk of a crisis of homelessness among single households on a scale unprecedented in the past half century.
In the last fortnight we saw the first raids on squats, under the new law that criminalises those without adequate shelter who take refuge in empty buildings. This tips the balance, as Grant Shapps explained, "in favour of property owners" as if that were not already the case.
What we are seeing in today is a form of extreme inequality which abandons the rights of the majority in favour of the privileges of the few; policy making that is turning back the work done after World War Two, when many single men needed homes after fighting and suffering for so long.
These are not new needs. Phoenix Housing Co-operative was established in 1980 by single people in east London – some former squatters – to create safe accommodation for single people on low incomes, but they are being exacerbated by today's economic climate and housing market.
Article 25 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights states that everyone has the right to a "standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of themselves and their family", including housing.
Since the beginning of the Cold War there has been a determined push by the US and others to exclude material needs such as housing from the human rights framework, restricting the legislation to such rights as freedom of expression. This ideology risks the wellbeing of single people here in the UK.
Members of Phoenix are often artists or traders in other insecure professions, running small businesses but with no realistic place of affording a home of their own or gaining a social housing tenancy.
There are other answers: the Phoenix Housing Plus formula brings empty properties back to life using volunteer labour from within the community, improving employment prospects and creating new homes for young single people. Our projects demonstrate that people are prepared to work hard for a right to secure housing.
However, positive though they are, these small-scale efforts will do little to meet housing demand among single people of all ages on a national scale.
Decent shelter for all is not just a social issue but a public health issue. It's time this was recognised in a statutory right to social housing for single people too.
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