Unfortunately, I did not attend Conservative Party Conference this year due to other government responsibilities which took me away from my constituency. However, please be assured that I very strongly support this campaign.
Furthermore, I also share the belief that one person without a roof over their head is one too many. I read Shelter’s recent manifesto with interest, and I recognise the cross-government approach required to tackle homelessness.
Let me assure you that there is a firm commitment across government to delivering more social and genuinely affordable homes, underpinned by the £11.5 billion Affordable Homes Programme (2021-26) which will deliver tens of thousands of new homes. You may be interested to know that the Government has proposed amending national planning guidance to make clear that local planning authorities should place greater importance on social rent.
In addition, the Government’s ‘Ending Rough Sleeping for Good’ strategy makes clear that increasing the affordability and security of housing is an important part of its work to prevent homelessness and rough sleeping. The Government’s commitment to doing so includes delivering a fairer private rented sector and supporting more stable tenancies. For example, the Renters (Reform) Bill will abolish Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions, which I know can cause uncertainty and worry for households.
I know that the Government is committed to reducing the need for temporary accommodation by preventing homelessness before it occurs. I understand that, since 2018, over 640,000 households have been prevented from becoming homeless or supported into settled accommodation through the Homelessness Reduction Act.
I agree about the importance of raising standards in rented homes, which is why I welcome the Government’s plans to apply the Decent Homes Standard to the private rented sector and strengthen local councils’ enforcement powers to help target criminal landlords. When it comes to housing rights, I understand that the Government is making changes to the legal aid means test that will significantly expand legal aid eligibility. The Government is investing up to £10 million each year through the creation of a Housing Loss Prevention Advice Service. As of 1st August 2023, this is enabling people facing the loss of their home to receive early legal advice on housing, debt and welfare benefits issues as well as representation in court.
I hope that this response has highlighted a strong commitment across government to tackling homelessness. I will continue to carefully scrutinise the Government’s work in this area.