In Manchester, the centre of England’s Northern Powerhouse, foreign investment, entrepreneurship and population levels are buoyant – and so are rents and house prices. Young people in sleeping bags fill up shop doorways lit up for Christmas. Others pitch tents in city streets. Last year a group even broke into the former stock exchange building, which is being renovated as a boutique hotel by Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs; the ex-Manchester United football players let them stay for several months before work began. Half Way, a documentary adopted by Shelter, the British homelessness charity, for its 50th anniversary, gives us a window into this aspect of 21st-century Britain that few of us see. The happy scene is a graduation ceremony at the University of Manchester where Daisy-May Hudson poses for photographs with her proud mum, Beverley. We then watch them on the platform waiting for a train home. “We are heading back to the homeless hostel,” mum tells the camera, wielded by Daisy-May. The family was homeless for almost a year from 2013, living in cramped temporary accommodation in the north-east suburbs of London. They became one of more than 50,000 families in England living in a twilight world of hostels and bed and breakfasts, switching every few months, possibly having to change schools and jobs. Daisy-May decided to document their story to reveal this hidden crisis. As she says in the film: “I felt powerless. I began filming to take power back.” Cuts to council budgets mean fewer temporary beds. And with housing in cities in short supply, many are offered homes miles from where they live. If they turn them down, the council is no longer responsible for them. After decades of rising home ownership, prices are beyond the reach of many while public housing is scarce. Owner-occupation has fallen from 71 per cent of households in 2003 to 64 per cent, the Resolution Foundation think-tank has discovered, putting more strain on the rented sector. Yet the UK lacks the institutionalised rental market of many EU countries. Standard tenancies are for six months and rent rises are common because of increasing demand. Since 2002, the size of the private rented sector has almost doubled, hitting 19 per cent in 2014-15, according to the English Housing Survey. Evictions are at a record high. Helen, a single mum from Manchester who was homeless for a time, told the audience after the screening: “I had a degree, a job. You think this couldn’t happen to you. You think it must be something wrong you have done.” Beverley Hudson also worked. For 13 years the family had lived in a house rented from Tesco. When the supermarket chain decided to sell, local rents proved unaffordable. The average two-bed house in Epping, a gentrified London suburb, costs almost £1,400 a month. The family had spent those 13 years on a council waiting list. Daisy-May talked of the psychological effect. Her sister could not tell friends she was homeless and would often go back to sleeping in bed with her mum. “Mum felt she had let us down, failed to provide. It is a hidden crisis,” she says. She blames “years of under-investment in affordable housing”. In the 1980s the government of Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher allowed council tenants to buy their houses at knockdown prices – and barred councils from using the money to build new ones. Housing associations – which under Thatcher were given greater responsibility for provision of social housing – have been unable to keep up with demand. At the screening, a man from the local housing association said it could build more homes quickly if it was allowed to borrow. But the new definition of “affordable”, 80 per cent of local rent, is still too much for many people. So the state pays private landlords. The housing benefit bill is £27bn a year. That is more than is spent on the police, roads and military equipment combined. Yet more than 1m people are on waiting lists for council housing in England. The Hudsons are now housed and Daisy-May has been named by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts as one of 18 Breakthrough Brits. Half Way has been used as evidence in a parliamentary inquiry. The government has repeatedly said it wants 1m homes built between 2015 and 2020 but there is little sign the target will be met. Meanwhile, prices are rising 8 per cent annually, rents are likely to follow suit and the taxpayer will keep footing the bill.