Shelter is proud to campaign alongside the rest of the housing movement to defend the right to a safe home. Many reading this will have seen petitions, events, reports and requests to email your MP about the Renters Reform Bill, or to call for more social housing. But what have we achieved together? Here’s a shortlist of the impact your support has had.
Renters Reform Bill
Since the government first announced its plans to bring forward the Renters Reform Bill in December 2019, we’ve been campaigning hard to ensure that this proposed bill strengthens renters’ rights across the country.
Over the last few years, supporters have been building pressure on the government by, signing petitions and open letters, writing to their MPs, signing open letters addressed to their council leaders, sharing their stories with Michael Gove, writing to their local newspapers and running street stalls on their high streets. Our campaign is working.
In May, the government introduced the Renters’ Reform Bill into parliament. The bill has promised to abolish Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions, fixed-term tenancies will be replaced with periodic (or rolling) tenancies, a new property portal will create a landlord register, there will be a new ombudsman for the private rented sector and all private renters will have the right to request a pet in their property.
To make sure the bill truly delivers for renters, we need to keep up the pressure because we know that the landlord lobby will continue to push the government to water down their proposed plans. You can follow our campaign on our Renters Reform Bill live blog.
Social Housing Regulation Bill
Alongside Grenfell United, we won better rights for social housing tenants across the country. The long-awaited Social Housing (Regulation) Act received Royal Assent this year and became law. The Act will hold social landlords to account and crucially, should save lives.
This day was long overdue: six years, one month and six days since the fire at Grenfell Tower. And it was the result of tireless campaigning from Grenfell United, Awaab Ishak’s family and the Awaab’s Law campaign, housing activists and thousands of Shelter supporters. Our campaigners tweeted their MPs, emailed a Lord or Baroness, and helped us to make a noise on social media when it mattered most by sharing our content. The Act will help to:
- professionalise the sector
- hold social landlords to account and ensure complaints are dealt with properly
- require dangerous hazards to be fixed
Together, we campaigned for the Social Housing (Regulation) Act. Then, we worked to make it stronger so it has the chance to truly make a difference to people’s lives.
Stopping evictions during the pandemic
As the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic began, our homes became our first line of defence. Government guidance was clear: you must stay home to avoid spreading coronavirus. Secure housing became critical to the safety of the nation.
Within the first month of the pandemic, we had successfully lobbied the government to announce a temporary end to evictions.
Next was those rough sleeping. It was vital that people who were living on the streets had somewhere safe to go. Over one weekend, the government introduced the ‘Everyone In’ scheme. This gave many people access to somewhere safe to stay. However, there was some ambiguity around who was eligible for this support. That’s why we campaigned with Rhys to ensure that in terms of access – everyone meant everyone.
Finally, there was the huge issue of people not being able to keep up with their rent. We campaigned to bring Local Housing Allowance back up to where it had been, so it covered 30% of market rents. The then Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, made the announcement after we sent a big open letter to him signed by over 140,000 people!
Protecting social housebuilding by rallying against ‘First Homes’
In 2020, the government wanted to prioritise home ownership – specifically for first-time buyers. However, they were going to fund this by taking from the money brought in by developers for social housing. The new policy was called ‘First Homes’, and the plan was to subsidise homes that would be offered to first-time buyers at a 30% discount on the market price, with the intention that the discount would remain for future buyers. These homes will be unaffordable to the average earner in 96% of the country.
We launched a short campaign to stop First Homes from taking so much of the money that was supposed to be going to social housing. Thousands of people agreed with us and supported our campaign, helping us pressure the government by responding to the consultation.
By doing this, we managed to convince the government to only use 40% (instead of 80%) of this money for First Homes.
Winning landmark court rulings that declared housing benefit discrimination is unlawful
We’re campaigning to end the discrimination that families and people who receive benefits face when looking for a home. So far, at four historic hearings involving Shelter clients, ‘No DSS’ discrimination was declared unlawful. These wins prove without a doubt that agents operating ‘No DSS’ policies are not only acting unjustly but also unlawfully.
We’ve also campaigned against the barriers landlords say prevent them from renting to people who receive benefits. Many landlords used to have terms in their mortgages which prevented them from letting to tenants who receive housing benefit, but by 2020 this was nothing more than a myth.
Industry leader, Mortgages for Business, told us that they think over 99% of the buy-to-let mortgage market is now ‘No DSS’ free. Now, all the major players have removed their ‘No DSS’ clauses, including in historic contracts, and confirmed that they won’t enforce them in future cases.
We’ve won these important changes but there’s still more to do. It’s time to make it directly and specifically illegal and tackle these discriminatory barriers in the Renters Reform Bill.
A housing emergency was formally declared in (the biggest local authority) Birmingham
In February 2020, Shelter Birmingham launched a listening campaign called ‘Home Truths’. The aim was to hear the views of people affected by the housing crisis in Birmingham.
A year later, some of those who had taken part in the listening campaign met online to examine the findings. The group included people with personal experiences of being homeless. Over four months, the group met with housing policy experts to help them understand the root causes of the housing crisis.
At the end of the process, the Birmingham Fair Housing Campaign was established. In November 2021, the campaign published ‘The People’s Manifesto for Fair Housing’ as their vision for change and their call for action, in response to Birmingham’s housing crisis.
The lobbying of the campaign has contributed to Birmingham City Council:
- introducing a selective licensing scheme in 25 wards
- moving policy issues relating to Traveller communities from ‘Anti-social behaviour & Neighbourhood Disputes’ into ‘Housing Policy’
- establishing a working group to discuss Gypsy, Roma and Traveller issues, including the provision of sites
- declaring a housing emergency
Since the tragic death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak, from a respiratory condition caused by mould in his Rochdale home, the campaigns’ plans are to continue to lobby social housing providers in Birmingham to take urgent action to stop families being harmed by mould. They also plan to fight for a ‘Charter of rights for people in emergency and temporary accommodation’.
With over 3,500 people signing to support ‘The People’s Manifesto for Fair Housing’, the campaign will continue to focus on building even greater power in the community and recruiting new members to join their steering group in 2023, driving further action.
As long as there are people let down by government inaction to tackle the housing emergency, we’ll be there getting those in power to sit up and listen. If you’d like to support our work, take one of our campaigning actions today!