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. I believe this is a direct result of almost nine 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; soaring rents in the private rented sector; and significant cuts to funding for homelessness services.
I agree with you that the Government’s Rough Sleeping Strategy does not go far enough to deal with this crisis. It is feeble, it lacks urgency, and last year the Housing Secretary confirmed that there is no new money to implement the strategy. The Government must raise its ambitions to end rough sleeping by 2027 by bringing this date forward.
I support meaningful action to tackle housing inequality, end homelessness and ensure that everyone has a place to call home. At the last general election, I stood on a manifesto with a commitment to end rough sleeping within five years and prevent the need for anyone to sleep rough on the streets.
As part of a wider plan to fix the housing crisis, the Labour Party has committed to build one million genuinely affordable homes to rent and buy to give those on low incomes more options for a place to stay. The Opposition has also proposed a levy on second homes that are used as holiday homes, to give homeless families the chance of a home. It is estimated that this could raise £560 million a year to help tackle the crisis and support a new cold weather fund to provide emergency accommodation for every rough sleeper during winter.
If Ministers are serious about ending rough sleeping, they should back the Labour Party’s plans to make 8,000 affordable homes immediately available for people with a history of sleeping on the streets, end the current practice of ‘no-fault’ evictions, take action to strengthen tenants’ rights, and address the shortage in social housing by halting Right to Buy.
As you may know, I attended and spoke in the Westminster Hall debate on the 7 February about this issue. You can read what I said and more on this debate here.