General Election 2019: why we can't let MPs forget housing

General Election 2019: why we can't let MPs forget housing

In the last year in England alone, a household became homeless every four minutes. In that same year, 692 rough sleepers died, again in England alone. That’s an increase of 22% on the previous year. Hundreds of people are dying on our streets, thousands are homeless and millions are at risk of losing their homes: this is the UK’s housing emergency. It must not slip off the agenda during this general election.

Earlier this month, the Queen’s Speech introduced her government’s legislative plans for the next parliament. It contained 11 words on housing – it didn’t even get its own sentence. This confirmed the government’s announcement earlier in the year of new legislation on building safety. An important issue, but it won’t do anything for those desperate for the security of a home and we can’t allow housing to feature so little in this election.

We already have the answer

The silence isn’t universal – in fact, leading politicians from across the political divide – from Ed Miliband to Jim O’Neill and Sayeeda Warsi – came together earlier this year to work as an independent commission. Together, they came to the clear conclusion that more social housing is the only way to solve this housing emergency. The answer really is that basic.

Still, it’s odd that so few of our politicians have focused on this issue. We know the general public instinctively and clearly support meaningful action. Our polling with YouGov has shown 77% of people support the building of more social homes. Prioritising social housing is more popular than prioritising home-ownership schemes like Help to Buy and shared ownership. All our politicians need to know that until they end their silence, our voices will only get louder.

Four steps to lasting change

The harsh truth for Westminster is that backstops and proroguing mean little to those living daily with the consequences of our national housing emergency. That’s why Shelter are calling on all parties to commit to delivering the social homes this country needs if we’re going to rebuild our communities.

Now that we know a general election is coming, this is a crucial moment to set out what an ambitious government could do to end the waste of lives caused when the fundamental human need for a safe home is unmet. The plan is not complicated, but it needs both long-term thinking and action that starts right now. I’m happy to share the four step plan with any politician, so here goes.

1. Increase the supply of social housing for those in greatest need and those trapped renting privately, by:

  • setting a target for an average of at least 90,000 homes a year at social rent levels over the next parliament on the way to the goal of 3 million new social homes over the next 20 years
  • delivering grant investment of £12.8 billion a year to substantially increase the supply of social rented and other types of affordable homes

2. Increase security for private tenants by legislating to abolish ‘no fault’ evictions, by:   

  • passing legislation to abolish section 21 evictions, reducing the risk of homelessness, and providing renters with the security and stability they need to thrive

3. Increase investment in welfare assistance to help prevent people becoming homeless, by:

  • returning Local Housing Allowance rates to at least the 30th percentile of market rents, to ensure that housing benefit covers the cost of renting
  • abolishing the five-week wait for Universal Credit and removing the benefit cap, which are pushing people into debt and homelessness

4. Ensure that homelessness services are fully funded and fit for the future, through:

  • an investment of at least £9.9bn over a 10 year period

With these four simple steps, the next government would end the housing emergency for good – solving the escalating crisis of affordability, properly tackling homelessness, and ensuring a home for everyone who needs one. It would provide millions with the opportunity, security, and prosperity that we all need to get on in life. It’s unthinkable that in the UK in the 21st century, we don’t all have a home. And the UK will never unite until this changes.

We at Shelter will not be quiet while politicians are silent on housing. Over the coming weeks we’ll work with our wonderful campaigners and friends across the breadth of this country to make sure all parties hear why this matters. I hope you will join us to win this fight.

Sign our petition and help us make sure that social housing is at the top of the new government’s agenda.