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Government must get serious about tackling homelessness crisis

Homelessness and rough sleeping are not inevitable in a country as decent and well-off as Britain, writes Sir Kevin Barron, MP for Rother Valley.

Yet since 2010, the number of people sleeping rough has more than doubled.

Sir Kevin Barron MP

Sir Kevin Barron MP

I believe these figures are a terrible reminder of eight years of failure on housing which has seen a steep drop in investment for new affordable homes with billions of pounds cut from housing benefit, inaction on short-term lets, soaring rents in the private rented sector and significant cuts to funding for homelessness services.

The charity Crisis has described the rise in rough sleeping as a ‘catastrophe’ and is calling for urgent action from the Government.

If ministers are serious about tackling this crisis, I believe they should back the Opposition’s plans to make 8,000 affordable homes immediately available for people with a history of sleeping on the streets and safeguard hostels and other supported housing from cuts to housing benefit.

At the election I stood on a manifesto which included commitments to build one million genuinely affordable homes to give those on low incomes more options for a place to stay.

More widely, action is required to tackle the root causes of homelessness.

I support ending the current practice of ‘no fault’ evictions and action to strengthen tenants’ rights by bringing forward a consumer rights revolution for renters.

This would ensure more secure tenancies, new legal minimum standards and controls on rent rises.

Ministers have said they will publish a rough sleeping strategy by July with a view to ending rough sleeping by 2027.

This is not good enough and I will press the Government at every opportunity to take immediate action to help the thousands of people forced to sleep dangerously.