Chris Thorne
Chris Thorne

By Chris Thorne

Slowly but surely, we’re winning

The UK may still be in the grip of a housing crisis, but slowly things are changing.

Housing was fringe issue at the 2010 General Election, but by 2015 it was a top 4 concern. Shelter campaigned hard to push it up the political agenda, and now it’s here to stay, with politicians of all parties making big commitments on housing in 2017.

There are real opportunities for change, and we’ll be ready to make it happen. In the past few years, Shelter has fought harder than ever to improve the lives of people facing bad housing and homelessness. As a service provider, we know how desperate things have got. And as a campaigning charity, we know that structural change is the solution.

With help from our fantastic supporters, we’ve made vital improvements happen, time and time again. Here are just some of our proudest achievements in recent years:

  • Secured big housebuilding commitments from the 3 major parties in their General Election manifestos, which will address our shortage of affordable homes
  • With our partners across the homelessness sector, secured a commitment from each of the three major political parties to end rough sleeping
  • Outlawed revenge evictions, so that landlords cannot serve an eviction notice when their council has ordered them to improve their home
  • Protected the welfare safety net, preventing a likely complete decimation of local welfare assistance schemes, and making sure that millions of people can still get the help they need
  • Won a government commitment to ban letting agent fees for people who rent privately, saving them hundreds of pounds each time they move home
  • Secured better protection for renter’s money, in the event of a letting agent going bust or committing fraud
  • Launch of a database of rogue landlords in London, naming and shaming criminal landlords who rent out unsafe homes
  • Successfully fought against restrictions to legal aid, so that people don’t need to prove their immigration status to get access to Legal Aid in a housing case
  • Helped shape the new Homeless Reduction Act to ensure families aren’t entitled to weaker protections than under the current legislative safety net

Each victory has helped people to find, keep or improve a home, but the fight isn’t over until everyone has a safe, secure, affordable place to live.

To help achieve this, we’ve recently focused on updating the out-of-date and not-fit-for-purpose private rented sector – this is where the most urgent change is needed, now.

11 million of us rent privately, including 1 in 4 families with a child. But many people who rent are struggling. Many are struggling to afford sky-high rents that just keep rising. And many are struggling to put down roots in a stable home.

Things are particularly hard for people on low incomes who rent – part of the growing army of those in low paid, part-time or insecure work; the bus drivers, cleaners, teaching assistants and shop workers that keep our country running.

They can’t access social housing, let alone save for a home of their home. So they are trapped paying ever rising rents, while living with the stress and additional costs of short-term contracts.

Therefore, we’re asking the next government to fund the building of 500,000 living rent homes. These homes will have rents that people on lower incomes can actually afford, at around a third of a typical salary, with ten-year contracts as standard. They will allow people to live, rather than just scrape by.

We’re also asking the next government to help people who rent right now, through our campaign for longer rental contracts. This has had huge support from Shelter supporters, landlords and politicians. So far, almost 40,000 people have signed our petition, over 200 people shared their personal stories of renting instability with their MPs, and an MP has raised the issue in parliament.

As the electoral dust settles on June 9th, there’s no time to waste. We’ll immediately begin pushing the new government hard to make these things happen. We have the solutions to fix renting, but we need our supporters to come together, speak out and get our voices heard.

So please join us, sign up to support our campaign for longer contracts here, and help us rack up some more wins over the next 5 years.

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