What my hon. Friend says is absolutely true: tenants are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If they leave too early, they can be criticised by the local authority; if they leave too late, apart from the cost risk, they may find that time has literally run out. Increasingly, tenants are coming to me and saying that they have been evicted and lost their belongings, which were in the property after the bailiffs arrived, and that they and their children are sleeping on somebody’s floor, sofa-surfing or in wholly inadequate hostel accommodation and being moved on night by night. My council acts as responsibly as it can to try to keep families together and ensure that people are rehoused in the borough or as close to it as possible, but as we all know, schooling, employment, support networks and caring responsibilities are all disrupted by the process—that is a very common thing to happen now.
I hope that nobody here has experienced eviction at first hand, but I am sure we have all met many constituents who have. It is one of the most traumatic things that someone can go through. The humiliation, the cost, the uncertainty, the rejection—the whole process is just appalling, and it is now accelerating as a consequence of simple greed or commercial practice. Unfortunately, with the growth of buy-to-let and temptation in the private rented market, rents are escalating at a huge rate.
Only the other day, we were talking about the difficulty of building affordable homes. I am proud to say that my local authority is now building 1,500 new affordable homes, rather than knocking them down as it did when it was Conservative. However, the rent for a new social rented home is about 20% of the market rate, which means that building it requires a huge subsidy, which is very difficult to obtain. [Interruption.] I can hear Alex Chalk tutting, but he knows that that will just encourage me.
In 2010, all the support for subsidy for social rented homes was removed, so it is no wonder that there has been a huge decline in availability and more reliance on the private rented sector. There is a fourfold or fivefold discrepancy in rent levels and landlords are being tempted to increase their income substantially simply by evicting tenants and replacing them with others. Alternatively, they may be thinking, “I don’t want to make more of a profit than I make already, but with benefit caps and restrictions on the rent that the tenant can pay”—given London rents, tenants will inevitably be partially reliant on housing benefit, even if they are working full-time—“I cannot afford to rent to them any more, so I’m evicting them.”