The government can only ‘level up’ 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.
‘We need significant investment in local communities to protect those individuals and families most at risk of being left behind, socially and economically,’ said Mr Akbor.
‘This must include a commitment to place the building of many more genuinely affordable homes placed at the top of the government’s post-pandemic ‘to do’ list.
‘Austerity cannot be used as an excuse for health and financial inequalities ever again.
‘The economic recovery has to be for everyone,’ he added. ‘People of all ethnicities must feel they have a stake in the brighter future that hopefully awaits.’
He also added the pandemic had graphically highlighted social disadvantages faced by BME people in the UK and elsewhere.
‘Neighbourhoods with a high concentration of BME residents are often plagued by acute levels of social deprivation which impact on people’s health,’ he told webinar delegates.
‘Many of these areas suffered particularly badly because of austerity measures introduced after the financial crash.
‘BME families often live in overcrowded properties and there was little new money for affordable family homes during the austerity years.
‘The coronavirus outbreak has rightly led the government to find tens of billions of pounds to support businesses and workers – resources that were previously unheard of.
‘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. Poorly paid workers, often of BME heritage, will undoubtedly be badly hit.’
And he highlighted the current government’s decision to release £6.4m to provide emergency accommodation for 90% of rough sleepers at the start of the lockdown as ‘a prime example of what should have happened long ago’.
Photo Credit – Unity Homes