Grant should address Gypsy and Traveller housing too

The Building & Social Housing Foundation today called on the Government to address the accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers in the new Housing and Planning Delivery Grant (HPDG).

The Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) has been consulting on proposals for the allocation mechanism for the new £510m Grant, but BSHF has responded, noting that it makes no attempt to address the very serious housing needs of Gypsies and Travellers.

According to research highlighted in BSHF’s 2007 report into the housing situation of Gypsies and Travellers, twenty-one per cent of all Gypsies and Travellers living in caravans are legally and practically homeless, having no lawful place to park.

However, less than one square mile of land in the whole of England would be sufficient to provide pitches for all Gypsy and Traveller families who are currently homeless.

The report also found that Gypsies and Travellers experience the worst health and education status of any disadvantaged group in England with 18 per cent of Gypsy and Traveller mothers experiencing the death of a child, compared to one per cent in the settled community.

It also found that Gypsy and Traveller children have significantly lower educational achievements.

Although Gypsies and Travellers are legally recognised as ethnic groups, racist attitudes towards them are still common.

This has been a major factor in the current under-provision of suitable authorised sites and the high number of unauthorised encampments, with all the tensions this can create with neighbouring communities.

Jim Vine, Housing Policy Analyst for BSHF, said: “Last year our report called for urgent increases in the provision of authorised sites for Gypsies and Travellers; the Housing and Planning Delivery Grant is one tool that could help to make that happen.

“The stated aim of the Grant is to incentivise improved housing delivery, including more effective planning, and nowhere is this more needed than housing for Gypsies and Travellers.”

He added: “Under-provision of appropriate authorised sites causes problems for the travelling and settled communities alike.

“If there are insufficient pitches on authorised sites Gypsies and Travellers are forced to resort to unauthorised sites.

“These unauthorised sites are inevitably harder to service, so lead to issues such as waste not being routinely collected.

“Conversely, well-run authorised sites can receive services very similar to ‘bricks and mortar’ homes; rent and council tax can be charged and refuse collection can be regular.”