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 the crisis has worsened.
The only way to fix our housing crisis is to build more affordable homes, particularly social housing, for which I argued as part of the debate on Boris Johnson’s Queen’s Speech. 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 affordable housing and, as part of this year’s Big Conversation in September, I organised a public meeting with Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey.
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 help homeless people and 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. However, 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 these charities to meet with the 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.)
The Bedroom Tax is one of the most pernicious policies introduced by the Coalition Government, with two thirds of those affected having a disability. It’s hit 7,000 families across Sheffield and, in the last Parliament, I challenged ministers on it, and voted against it in the Commons. The issue may no longer be in the headlines, but Labour remains committed to scrapping it.
This is a selection of my work on this issue. Please get in touch if you want to find out more.