Thank you to those who contacted me about private renting solutions for homeless people and the related campaign by Crisis. I share concerns about this important issue.
Homelessness and rough sleeping are not inevitable. Yet, since the conservative-led government was elected in 2010 the number of people sleeping rough has more than doubled - with the latest figures confirming there has been a 169% increase. I believe these figures are a terrible reminder of seven years of failure on housing which has seen a steep drop in investment for new affordable homes; over £5 billion cut from housing benefit; inaction on short-term lets and soaring rents in the private rented sector; and significant cuts to funding for homelessness services.
At the General Election, Labour's manifesto pledged a new national plan to end rough sleeping within this parliament and tackle the root causes of homelessness by increasing security for private renters with controls on rent rises. Unfortunately we did not win the election.
I am aware of the Crisis report, 'Home: No less will do', which examines the barriers single homeless people face accessing the private rented sector. I support projects such as 'Help to Rent', which assist tenants and landlords to set up, de-risk and sustain a tenancy, and I agree excellent initiatives such as these need support and funding.
At the Autumn Budget the Chancellor announced just three small-scale pilots to help the homeless, with funding which fell short of what homelessness charities had called for. I believe this is a 'nothing has changed' Budget from a Government with no idea of the reality of people's lives and with no plan to improve them.
If the Conservative Government is serious about fixing our rough sleeping crisis, I believe it should back the Labour Opposition's plans to make 8,000 affordable homes available for people with a history of sleeping on the streets and safeguard homeless hostels and other supported housing from cuts to housing benefit.
I will continue to press the Government to do more to tackle homelessness and ensure security and support for private renters.