Homelessness March 2017

Thank you for contacting me recently about private renting and homelessness and the related campaign by Crisis and St. Mungo’s. I share your concerns about this important issue.

The scale of rising homelessness should shame us all. While the number of people sleeping rough fell by three-quarters from 1997-2010, it has doubled since 2010, and across England homelessness has risen by 50% in the last two years. These figures are a terrible reminder of the consequences of seven years of failure on housing which has seen an end to investment in new affordable social rented homes; £5 billion taken from housing benefit and payments; inaction on short-term lets and soaring rents in the private rented sector; and significant cuts to funding for vital homelessness services. 

I am aware of the Crisis report, 'Home: No less will do', published in July 2016, which examines the barriers single homeless people face 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 excellent initiatives such as these need support and funding.

I believe the Government should be setting out how it will end rough sleeping, starting by doubling the number of homes reserved for people who have slept on the streets. Instead, the housing White Paper, published in February, contains unconvincing measures that will do nothing to reverse seven years of failure on housing since 2010. 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. 

It must not be an excuse for the Government to devolve responsibility to councils without proper funding, or to shift the blame to councils for the Government's failure on homelessness. I believe the Government must ensure that the additional costs generated by this legislation are fully met on a long-term basis.

As you may be aware, the Homelessness Reduction Bill is currently progressing through Parliament with Government and cross-party support. I support the aims of this Bill to change homelessness law both through the emphasis placed on prevention and through new duties to assist non-priority groups, particularly single people, in finding accommodation. However, I believe it is vital that the costs of this Bill are funded in full, and that this forms part of a wider strategy to reverse rising homelessness. 

As the Homelessness Reduction Bill progresses through Parliament, my Shadow Frontbench colleagues will be pressing the Government to ensure that it fully funds the cost of the extra duties in the Bill and that the Bill succeeds in playing a part in helping address rapidly rising homelessness.

Thank you once again for contacting me and for sharing your views about this important issue. I will continue to press the Government to do much more to tackle and reduce homelessness and rough sleeping.