Once, to have a home was seen as a right. Now it is seen as a privilege. The price of houses has risen enormously. Renting has also become more expensive. In rural areas, to which many people have moved during the COVID-19 pandemic, local people are often priced out of the housing market. More people are forced to sleep in their cars and on the streets. At the same time, however, the houses left unoccupied are sufficient to provide accommodation for all who lack it.
There are many reasons why it is so hard to find a place in which to live. They include a change in attitude towards buying houses, from looking at housing as shelter, to seeing it as an investment to increase wealth. This encourages people to take out heavy loans to buy houses, which in turn raises prices. In the meantime, governments that once took responsibility for housing people with little or no income have stopped building new public houses or have sold existing stock.
It is easy to treat this situation as inevitable, particularly if we own our own houses. For that reason it is important to reflect on why housing is important, and to imagine what we lose of ourselves when we have no place in which to live. Homelessness Week is an occasion that helps us do this.