An Oxford MP has called for the university to survey its properties to see if any could be used to relieve homelessness in the city.
Anneliese Dodds, MP for Oxford East, told Cherwell: “It would be helpful if the University could undertake an audit of its properties to examine if any that are not being used could contribute to relieving homelessness, particularly as temporary provision during the winter months.”
It followed her speech in the House of Commons on Tuesday where she spoke about about the “wrong-headed government policies” that are contributing to Oxford’s housing crisis.
She told MPs that the city is the “least affordable place in Britain to buy a home,” and that an average home costs 16 times the average salary.
According to Dodds, “benefit cuts and freezes; cuts to hostel funding by our city council as a result of central Government cuts; and cuts to support services in mental health and in addiction services” are the three factors that contribute to the “60 people sleep[ing] on our streets some evenings.”
These factors are in addition to the lack of affordable housing, Dodds said. She also praised the “huge local efforts to improve the situation”, mentioning the 180 beds currently provided for rough sleepers and the coordination between Oxford’s churches and rough sleeping services “over the winter to try to unlock additional places.”
She continued: “However, all of that has been against the grain of wrong-headed Government policies, which are stopping my city from being a city for everyone, which it always has been until now.
“It is becoming a place where people can get on and be secure only if they are wealthy.” Dodds closed her speech by inviting the Secretary of State “to come to my city so that he can talk to those families in need. He will be able to talk to the overcrowded families – those whose children are sharing tiny bedrooms – and to those people sleeping on the streets to find out from them what needs to change.”
Dodds told Cherwell: “We desperately need affordable housing in Oxford – and the University can play a major part in that. It’s understandable that the University has a focus on ensuring that its own academics and technicians are appropriately housed, but we also need to acknowledge that a lot of what would otherwise be family housing in our city is under pressure, due to increasing student demand.
“We must also remember that the University would not be able to function without cleaners, caterers, maintenance workers etc. – and many of them are being priced out of Oxford.
“It’s in the University’s interests as well as those of low-paid workers to pay a Living Wage, and to make as many sites as possible available for genuinely affordable housing. Magdalen and Brasenose Colleges seem to be positively working towards this, but we haven’t seen it across the board.”