“POWER lies with the landlords – that’s just a fact.”

This comment from city councillor Dick Wolff neatly and grimly summarises the problem.

Despite the fact that the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that every person ‘has the right to housing’, the vast majority of people still live in a home which a landlord could evict them from.

That is the landlord’s human right as the owner.

The effect of the human rights declaration is not that no-one is ever made homeless, but simply that when people do become homeless, governments are obliged to try to help them.

Sometimes, though, you just can’t help everyone.

Last week we commented on the looming problem that faces Oxford City Council after it agreed to provide 124 rooms across the city to keep people off the streets for another year, because of the ongoing pandemic.

Unless the council decides to just do this in perpetuity at some point (it won’t), then at some point it will have to tell the people it is still housing ‘sorry, you have to go back on the street now’.

Oxford Tenants' Union has now warned the council that it faces an almost identical problem with a whole other group of people.

This group isn't made up of what we might normally think of as 'homeless people' – rough sleepers – it's made up of ordinary, hardworking citizens who, because over the global pandemic biting into all our finances, simply cannot afford to pay the rent at the moment.

This might be families where a parent has lost a job; couples where one person is on reduced pay, or casual workers who aren't getting the work at the moment.

So what can your council do to help all these people?

Well, given it has just secured 124 rooms for the homeless, it might be about to find a whole new group of tenants to fill them.