Thank you for contacting me about action to address the housing emergency, including investment in affordable social housing and stronger protections in the private rented sector. I absolutely agree that our nation’s housing and rent market is due a fundamental overhaul.
I remain concerned that the pandemic has exposed the deep inequalities in our housing system. The pandemic has placed unprecedented demands on household finances. Research shows one in four private renters have seen their earnings fall since the start of the pandemic and millions of private tenants are concerned about being made homeless.
It has also brought into sharp focus the scale of housing inequality. Those in insecure, overcrowded homes are more at risk of the health and economic impacts of COVID-19, including many who were previously able to keep up with their housing costs but through no fault of their own are now in financial difficulty.
I have seen the reality of this situation first hand, as many people from our community have reached out to me in need of support due to poor social housing, rent issues and homelessness. I have been left appalled by the dire situations many people across Sheffield Heeley have been left in due to the Government’s negligence and failure to improve our housing system.
Likewise I met with Shelter recently to discuss directly their plans regarding leveling up and the need for more and better social housing.
The problems of undersupply and affordability predate the pandemic. In my view, the Government has presided over a decade of failure on housing which has seen a steep drop in investment for new affordable homes; a huge net loss of social housing; unfair caps on housing benefit; and soaring rents in the private rented sector.
The number of new homes completed for social rent has fallen consistently since 2010 to its lowest level on record. Meanwhile, there are more than one million households on social housing waiting lists across England.
I agree with you that there is an urgent need to fix the housing emergency by maximising delivery of all tenures, with a new generation of social housing to provide thousands more genuinely affordable homes for people on ordinary incomes in our constituency and across the country. We need bold action to redefine housing as a human right instead of a commodity to be traded and profited from.
Labour has set out its ambition for a ‘New Settlement’ for housing, including new powers for communities to buy and develop land for housing, which could generate up to 100,000 new homes a year, much of which would be social and affordable.
The Government’s current definition of ‘affordable’ is, in my view, implausible. We need to restore the link between wages and housing costs, setting a new definition linked to local wages, while tackling issues of quality, affordability, and security in private rentals.
Ministers have repeatedly promised a White Paper on reforms to the private rented sector. They should avoid further delays, bring forward the long-awaited Renters Reform Bill and abolish section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions to give people security of tenure.
Therefore I have written to the Secretary of State on your behalf to urge the Government to take action now to invest in truly affordable social housing. Please see a copy of this letter and the Government response below: