I have recently received emails from constituents asking me to support homelessness charity Crisis’ campaign on private renting solutions for homeless and vulnerable people. Unfortunately I was not able to attend the related Westminster Hall debate on February 8th but I have supported the work of Crisis for a long time.
While the number of people sleeping rough fell by three-quarters under Labour (1997-2010), it has doubled since 2010. Across England, homelessness has risen by 50% in the last two years. These figures are a terrible reminder of the consequences of the Government’s seven years of failure on housing: ending investment in new affordable social rented homes; taking £5 billion from housing benefit and payments; inaction on short-term lets and soaring rents in the private rented sector; and overseeing deep cuts to funding for vital homelessness services.
The Crisis report ‘Home: No less will do’ (published in July 2016) examines the barriers single homeless people face in accessing the private rented sector. I support projects such as ‘Help to Rent’, which assist tenants and landlords to set up, de-risk and sustain a tenancy, and I agree that excellent initiatives such as these need support and funding.
I believe the Government should be setting out how it will end the national disgrace of rough sleeping, starting by doubling the number of homes reserved for people who have slept on the streets. Instead the Government’s housing White Paper, published in February, contains unconvincing measures that will do nothing to reverse the seven years of failure on housing since 2010. I believe we need to legislate for long-term tenancies if we are to stop insecure accommodation. I am therefore disappointed that the White Paper contains very little detail regarding the private rented sector and I am concerned that plans to simply encourage landlords to have longer tenancies will fail.
As you may be aware, the Homelessness Reduction Bill is currently progressing through Parliament with Government support. I support the aims of this Bill to change homelessness law through both prevention and new duties to assist non-priority groups, particularly single people, in finding accommodation. However, I believe it is vital that the Government honours its promise to fund the costs of this Bill in full, and that this forms part of a wider strategy to reverse rising homelessness.