Housing charities warn of impact of climate change on homeless people

Housing charities have warned that homeless people and those in poor housing are at increasing risk of the effects of climate change in the UK. 

Three of the leading housing charities – made up of Shelter, Homeless Link and Crisis – have written a letter to the government demanding urgent action to protect homeless people this winter and improve inadequate accommodation. 

The charities also called on the government to deliver a coherent strategy of how to build new homes whilst simultaneously delivering on the promise to meet net zero carbon emissions. 

The letter cited homeless people’s tents being washed away this summer in flash floods and people who could not cool down in emergency housing during heat waves, with the letter rightly pointing out that “it is the poorest who are being hit hardest by the climate emergency”.

The chief executive of Homeless Link, Rick Henderson, said: “Periods of extreme weather can be very dangerous for people sleeping rough. As these grow more common, addressing the current emergency weather measures is imperative to make sure they reflect our current environment and keep people as safe as possible.”

The government is not introducing its future homes standard, which will require new builds to have low carbon heating and adequate insulation, until 2025. Over a million homes have been built in recent years lacking both adequate insulation and low carbon heating and it’s thought another million will be built before the new standard comes in. In true capitalist fashion, companies have prioritised short term profit above all else as it costs £5,000 to install the future standard, but £20,000 to retrofit houses. Global capital accumulation is at stake and capitalists won’t let low carbon technology, such as solar panels, eat into that.

It shows that behind the climate crisis is the reality of class interest and power, not individualistic choice as the system would have you believe. It is capitalism that is driving the increase in extreme weather events and it’s capitalism that is making the lives affected by extreme weather so much harder. These events are occurring at the same time with austerity, dispossession and privatisation, leaving the working class in an even more vulnerable position. Time and time again, the people who have contributed the least to climate change and have been exploited the most under capitalism are put in harm’s way, left to die by a government that values profit over lives.

Georgina Andrews, is a member of the YCL’s Merseyside branch

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