Housing

Here's what would happen if Prince William opened up royal palaces to homeless people

More than half of people want Prince William to open the royal palaces up for the homeless. Big Issue has found that it would help thousands.

Prince William launches Homewards

Prince William launches Homewards in 2023. Image: The Royal Foundation

Slap-bang in the centre of London, there’s a huge bit of very fancy housing that barely gets used. The problem is, Buckingham Palace currently belongs to the crown.

Suggestions to open royal palaces up for the homeless are nothing new, but they’re now gaining ground. More half (52%) of people would support William using Buckingham Palace, and other royal palaces, to get people off the streets, a new poll by Savanta for Yahoo! News has found.

After all, his Homewards initiative is a big, public commitment to ending homelessness. So how much of a difference would flinging the doors open make?

We crunched the numbers, assuming the total floor space of the most prominent palaces is being converted into studio flats for a single person, meeting the minimum space standards of 39 square metres.

Thousands could be housed if Prince William opened up the royal palaces to homeless people. (Big Issue)

Buckingham Palace alone could fit 1,974 studio flats into its 77,000 square metres, getting some way to taking care of the estimated 10,000 rough sleepers on London’s streets.

Using the same maths for Windsor Castle, Balmoral, the Palace of Holyrood, and Sandringham, almost 3,500 people could have a home.

It’d make a small dent in helping the 271,000 people experiencing homelessness in England. And that’s before we get to the rest of the chronic empty homes problem in the country, with the number of long-term empty properties rising by 24% in the last six years.

Meanwhile, the government is set to miss its manifesto promise to end rough sleeping by 2024 as the cost-of-living crisis pushes more people into homelessness.

“The government does have a commitment to end rough sleeping, but the kind of action needed behind it, the political leadership, isn’t happening,” said Jasmine Basran, head of policy and campaigns at homelessness charity Crisis.

Of course, we’ve always known there’s a way to fix the problem – just maybe not the Wills.

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