Last week, my colleague Ami laid out what we needed to see in the Queen’s Speech. So how did it turn out? And what do the recent political events mean for Shelter and our mission to end the housing emergency? Quite a lot, as it happens. With new mayors, reshuffles and new plans for laws, it can be hard to stay on top of what matters, what’s good, what’s bad, and what is plain ugly.
Firstly, on what very few people outside the bubble called Super Thursday, we saw a massive victory for the Incumbent Party. Those in power on Thursday morning were, by and large, not emptying their desks by the weekend. The mayors that were in post remained so. Some changes occurred with Tracy Brabin becoming the first mayor of West Yorkshire and Joanne Anderson becoming the first black woman to be elected a mayor as she took over as Mayor of Liverpool.
Now it’s time for them to hang up their rosettes and get delivering on tackling the housing emergency being faced across the country. This is what we said is needed in Manchester, and this is what we think is needed in London. And don’t ever forget Bristol.
So that was the elections. What does it mean for the government’s legislative agenda? This week, an informally (for her) dressed Queen was made to say phrases like ‘levelling up’ and ‘gigabyte’, which doesn’t sound like the sort of script Peter Morgan would give her. But it was what the prime minister put in her mouth for this year’s Queen’s Speech, in which the monarch sets out the programme of legislation that the Government intends for the next Parliamentary year.
For our work, we saw a really positive set of commitments on renters’ reform. We are now one step closer to ensuring every private renter can have a decent place to call home, in the form of a Renter’s Reform Bill. We’re ready to work with the government to scrap Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions and introduce a landlord register.
The pandemic has been unbelievably hard on renters who’ve had to battle poor conditions, illegal evictions and indifferent landlords, without the protections they deserve.
The government is doing the right thing by making renting fairer and safer for all. This was big and good news and we can all be glad of that.
Elsewhere, the proposals to act on the social housing white paper was vague on actually bringing forward new laws. Social renters need legislation to ensure standards put their safety at the centre. This lack of a clear commitment on social housing regulation is concerning – not least nearly four whole years on from the fire at Grenfell.
We also saw a promise for legislation on planning. On this, as we said around the white paper last year, the changes will throw more uncertainty and delay getting homes built when what we need is a clear financial commitment to more social homes – especially if government hopes to make its manifesto promise of building a million homes by 2024.
If renting promises are straightforwardly good, while the planning and social housing white paper is rather ugly, the out-and-out bad can be found in the plans for Immigration and Policing Bills. The former will make it hard for some people to access suitable accommodation in this country and is likely to lead to destitution. The latter sees both an attack on the right to protest and, in its fourth part, new powers for the police to arrest people in vehicles in a way we feel could be used against homeless people and is intended to target Gypsy and Traveller communities and their right to live in their traditional way. Government should drop these plans and focus on the positive opportunities after such a hard year to build back our communities stronger, healthier, and better.