We face the biggest housing crisis in a generation. We are simply not building enough homes, the growing private rented sector is not fit for purpose and social housing is under attack. We need more affordable homes to rent and to buy. But under the Tories we have seen a total failure on housing and leaseholders nationwide left with unpayable bills for building safety failings not of their causing.
The only way to fix our housing crisis is to build more affordable homes, particularly social housing. I have highlighted Sheffield City Council’s innovative house-building initiative, supported funding bids for new housing projects and urged the Government to do more to address the housing crisis. I’ll keep pushing the Government to make it easier to build more affordable housing to rent and to buy.
The private rented sector is not fit for purpose and social housing is under attack. I have challenged the Government on the waiting lists for social housing. I have supported Sheffield Council‘s selective landlord licensing scheme to protect private renters; however, these powers are limited, and I have pushed the Government to introduce a compulsory registration scheme.
Homelessness and rough sleeping is high on my agenda, and a top concern raised in my Big Conversations. In Sheffield I work with a number of charities doing great work to rough sleepers – including the Cathedral Archer Project, Roundabout, Ben’s Centre, Emmaus and HARC, raising money for them in my 2017 Christmas Appeal – and helped launch the Help us Help campaign, created by local charities, the Council, South Yorkshire Police and other agencies to encourage people to get involved with helping rough sleepers.
As I have argued in Parliament, the scale and complexity of the issue has increased due to the last decade of cuts. I’ve taken the heads of two of local charities to meet with the responsible Cabinet Office Minister and push for a long-term approach on everything from supporting families to providing secure housing. In Parliament, I have talked about the impact of Government cuts in funding to councils on their capacity, directly and through their support for the voluntary sector, to help rough sleepers off the streets and challenged the Government on the failure of their rough sleeping strategy to address this underlying issue.
I have also spoken out about how benefit sanctioning – which has risen massively in recent years – is a cause of homelessness and how payday lenders have targeted young homeless people who must rely on expensive loans to pay for food and other essentials. (You can read more about my work to regulate pay day lenders here.)
Cladding and building safety
I have given a top priority to supporting victims of the cladding and building safety scandal, since first supporting residents of the Metis Building in their campaign to have dangerous ACM cladding removed two years ago, and I pressed the Government to improve fire safety regulation. Over the last year I have consistently made the case for the Government to make buildings safe at no cost to leaseholders and recovering money from those responsible.
I have worked with Sheffield Cladding Action Group, arranging meetings for affected residents with representatives from the Council and Fire Service as well as my colleague Clive Betts, the Chair of the Select Committee on Housing Communities and Local Government. I talked with Ministers to secure funding to install safety measures after Wicker Riverside residents were evacuated just before Christmas 2020 and, in a Parliamentary debate, highlighted the problems facing buildings in Sheffield.
I asked Housing Minister Chris Pincher to address the loophole affecting blocks under 18m, wrote to Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick (see here) on his inadequate proposals to deal with the scandal, spoke in a debate on ‘Residential Leaseholders and Interim Fire Safety Costs’ (see here) and challenged Boris Johnson after Conservative opposition to protective measures in the Fire Safety Bill – on which I spoke several times, highlighting the financial and mental pressures on leaseholders.
I spoke again for leaseholders in a debate on the Select Committee report on building safety (see here) and contributed in the second reading of the Building Safety Bill, where I called on Parliament to amend the Bill to provide the protections leaseholders were continually promised by the Government.
This is a selection of my work on this issue. Please get in touch if you want to find out more.