The government can only â€˜level upâ€™ the country by investing in communities and building many more genuinely affordable homes, according to the chief executive of a Yorkshire housing association.
Speaking at a webinar on the housing and health implications of the COVID-19 virus, Ali Akbor, who has headed Leeds-based housing association Unity Homes and Enterprise for more than two decades, said the most deprived areas in the country should be a funding priority as the nation emerges from lockdown.
â€˜We need significant investment in local communities to protect those individuals and families most at risk of being left behind, socially and economically,â€™ said Mr Akbor.
â€˜This must include a commitment to place the building of many more genuinely affordable homes placed at the top of the governmentâ€™s post-pandemic â€˜to doâ€™ list.
â€˜Austerity cannot be used as an excuse for health and financial inequalities ever again.
â€˜The economic recovery has to be for everyone,â€™ he added. â€˜People of all ethnicities must feel they have a stake in the brighter future that hopefully awaits.â€™
He also added the pandemic had graphically highlighted social disadvantages faced by BME people in the UK and elsewhere.
â€˜Neighbourhoods with a high concentration of BME residents are often plagued by acute levels of social deprivation which impact on peopleâ€™s health,â€™ he told webinar delegates.
â€˜Many of these areas suffered particularly badly because of austerity measures introduced after the financial crash.
â€˜BME families often live in overcrowded properties and there was little new money for affordable family homes during the austerity years.
â€˜The coronavirus outbreak has rightly led the government to find tens of billions of pounds to support businesses and workers â€“ resources that were previously unheard of.
â€˜But worrying times lie ahead in the UK including a recession, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already conceded will happen, and a likely surge in unemployment.Â Poorly paid workers, often of BME heritage, will undoubtedly be badly hit.â€™
And he highlighted the current governmentâ€™s decision to release Â£6.4m to provide emergency accommodation for 90% of rough sleepers at the start of the lockdown as â€˜a prime example of what should have happened long agoâ€™.
Photo Credit â€“ Unity Homes