Homelessness and rough sleeping are not inevitable in a country as decent and well-off as ours. Yet, since 2010, the number of people sleeping rough has more than doubled, with the latest statistics confirming there has been a 169 per cent increase.
These figures are a terrible reminder of eight years of failure on housing which has seen a steep drop in investment for new affordable homes; billions of pounds cut from housing benefit; inaction on short-term lets and soaring rents in the private rented sector; and significant cuts to funding for homelessness services.
Crisis, the national charity for homeless people, has described the rise in rough sleeping as a ‘catastrophe’ and is calling for urgent action from the government to end rough sleeping. If Ministers are serious about tackling this crisis, I believe they should back the Opposition’s plans to make 8,000 affordable homes immediately available for people with a history of sleeping on the streets and safeguard hostels and other supported housing from cuts to housing benefit.
At the 2017 General Election I stood on a manifesto which pledged to end rough sleeping within five years and prevent the need for anyone to sleep rough on the streets. This included commitments to build one million genuinely affordable homes to rent and buy to give those on low incomes more options for a place to stay.
Action is required to tackle the root causes of rising homelessness. Eviction or default from a private tenancy is now the biggest single cause of homelessness. I support ending the current practice of ‘no fault’ evictions and action to strengthen tenants’ rights by bringing forward a consumer rights revolution for renters. This would ensure more secure tenancies, new legal minimum standards and controls on rent rises.
I will press the government at every opportunity to take immediate action to help the thousands of people forced to sleep dangerously.