Local Housing Allowance and Homelessness — [Mr Adrian Bailey in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:33 am on 24th July 2019.

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Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Labour, Stockton North 10:33 am, 24th July 2019

Yes, and what is happening in response? Very little. So much more needs to be done. The housing allowance is not allocated or based on how many areas are in need, just distributed to areas in a ranked order until there is no more money. In Shelter’s words, the affordability funding is

“not even close to plugging the gap.”

My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Southall proved that the housing crisis is very real with a series of case studies of real people and families in crisis. They are not just numbers in a table of statistics. My right hon. Friend Liam Byrne told us that we need to remember the names of some of the people who never found a home, and spoke of the memorial to Miguel in his constituency. He also spoke of children in his area who are taking their GCSEs while accommodated in the local Travelodge. I understand why he is asking the new Prime Minister to take action on that systematic failure.

I hope that the Minister remains in post, and can do something. As I mentioned, we will get a new Prime Minister today, and there will be a lot of shuffling around, but whether the Minister remains or provides a handover to his successor, I urge him to work to restore local housing allowance rates back to the 30th percentile of the market, as others have called for. We need to address homelessness with immediate effect, and provide a lifeline to people on a low income. We simply cannot afford not to.

I know that it can be easy to sit in opposition and criticise those making the decisions, but Labour has made some bold pledges that we will deliver when we win a general election. We will define affordable housing as linked to local income, and scrap the Conservatives’ so-called affordable rent home price, at up to 80% of market rates. We will stop the sell-off of 50,000 social rented homes a year by suspending the right to buy—I am pleased that the Scottish Government have done that already—ending all conversions to affordable rent, and scrapping the Government’s plans to force councils to sell their best homes.

We will back councils and housing associations with new funding, powers and flexibilities to build at scale. While we work to provide 8,000 homes for rough sleepers, we will provide local authorities with £100 million to deal with winter pressures and ensure that no one sleeps rough. We will also tackle the scandal of empty homes, many of which need upgrading to be habitable, and many more of which investors simply buy and leave empty, believing that the value will go up and they will make a financial killing.

The crisis is leaving families homeless because of the Government’s failure to act. Successive Conservative, and Lib Dem coalition, Governments have failed on housing and failed to end homelessness—no wonder people have no confidence in their housing policies. There is no doubt in my mind that it is time to act on house building and, in the meantime, on the local housing allowance, before even more families are shown the door and thrown out on to the streets.