Homelessness Reduction Bill
It is deeply concerning that homelessness and rough sleeping have both risen sharply since 2010. Indeed, while the number of people sleeping rough fell by three-quarters during the last Labour Government, it has doubled since 2010, and has risen by 30% in the last year alone.
The scale of rising homelessness should shame us all. I believe the Government's failure on housing over the last six years has caused worry and misery for millions of people now struggling with the cost of the housing crisis and facing higher rents, more homelessness, lower levels of home ownership - there are 200,000 fewer home-owning households now than there were in 2010 - and fewer homes built than at any time since the 1920s.
I believe that the rise in homelessness can be traced directly to decisions taken by the Government which have led to big cuts in housing benefit support, soaring private rents, the loss of affordable homes - with over 140,000 fewer council homes than in 2010 - and cuts to funding for homelessness support services. Indeed, the National Audit Office has found that funding for homelessness services was cut by 45% between 2010 and 2015.
The Homelessness Reduction Bill, a Private Members' Bill which seeks to introduce new measures for reducing homelessness, received its Second Reading in the House of Commons on Friday 28 October 2016. I supported the Bill, which is strongly influenced by changes that the Welsh Government has made under the Housing (Wales) Act 2014. I note that the UK Government has also indicated its support for the Homelessness Reduction Bill.
I welcome the Government's support for this cross-party Bill. However, I believe it is vital that any new legislation is supported by Government funding to enable local authorities to build more homes. It must not be an excuse for the Government to devolve responsibility to councils without proper funding, or to shift the blame to councils for the Government's failure on homelessness. I also believe that the Government must take action to deal with the causes of rising homelessness. This includes building more affordable homes, taking action to help private renters, and re-thinking crude cuts to support through housing benefit.
I spoke in support of the bill in the House of Commons on 28 October. You can read my speech here.