The Prince of Wales has announced that homelessness will be his charitable focus while he awaits his eventual succession to the Crown. In an announcement this week, he pledged £3 million as the start of a lifelong commitment to tackling the issue, which will begin by funding ‘housing first’ schemes in six areas, taking the lead from Scandinavian approaches which aim to stop people falling between the cracks and sort them with accommodation before focusing on other issues in their life.
It is a sensible choice for the Prince. Stopping rough sleeping and other forms of homelessness, such as temporary and unsuitable housing, is a fairly uncontroversial cause which is unlikely to bring him into conflict with his father’s government. It also links nicely to his mother’s legacy – she first took him and Prince Harry to meet the homeless when they were in prep school. Yet the future king could do far more than the current, limited project – by turning some of his own land over to the houseless.
Upon his father’s accession, the Prince of Wales succeeded to several estates traditionally held by the heir to the throne. As Duke of Cornwall, he controls land worth around £1 billion, scattered across the country from inner London to the edges of his future realms. He owns the land around the Oval, most of Dartmoor, Scilly and other chunks of Cornwall and Herefordshire – offering plenty of scope to build for and house the homeless.
To do so would be in a fine royal tradition. Prince William’s predecessors have turned their land over to various charitable institutions over the centuries. Charles II provided the space, and the funds, for Chelsea’s Royal Hospital, while Henry VIII funnelled the spoils of the Dissolution into a range of establishments.