Homelessness and rough sleeping are not inevitable in a country as well off as ours. Yet homelessness is rising, and, since 2010, the number of people sleeping rough has more than doubled. The number of households in temporary accommodation stands at over 84,000, and more than 126,000 children are without a home.
I am concerned that these figures are a direct result of nine years of Government failure on housing which has seen a steep drop in investment for new affordable homes, billions of pounds cut from housing benefit, soaring rents in the private rented sector, and significant cuts to funding for homelessness services.
The National Audit Office has identified changes to housing benefit as a factor in rising homelessness, with young people under the age of 35 particularly affected by reduced Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates and the working-age benefits freeze. These findings are supported by research from the housing charity Crisis, which reveals that in 94% of areas across the UK, only one in five or fewer private rented homes is affordable for young single people who rely on housing benefit.
I believe that young people on low incomes deserve secure, decent living conditions with affordable rents, which is why I support Centrepoint’s campaign to include under-25s in the Shared Accommodation Rate exemption for homeless people.
I have written to the Work and Pensions Secretary, Thérèse Coffey, and raised the issue of Local Housing Allowance rates with her.
In terms of other measures:
I support a new definition of affordable housing that is linked to local income, and I am committed to addressing the shortage of social housing by ending the Right to Buy.
I support meaningful action to tackle housing inequality, end homelessness and ensure that everyone has a place to call home. This includes ending cuts to local government and ensuring that councils can deliver vital local services like homelessness prevention and reduction.
I will press the Government to build one million genuinely affordable homes to rent and buy, to give those on low incomes more options for a place to stay. I also believe that councils and housing association should be backed with new funding, powers and flexibility to ensure they can build at scale.