Siobhain confronts Minister on ongoing housing crisis

Home / News & Views / Speeches / Siobhain confronts Minister on ongoing housing crisis

09 February 2017

smhousing Yesterday Siobhain launched a passionate attack against the UK's worsening housing crisis - citing the rise in homelessness and the lack of genuinely affordable housing for families.

You can read her speech here and watch it below

'I congratulate the hon. Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon) on securing this debate. I am here because I am full of rage. I am full of rage at the number of homeless families I see on a weekly basis who do nothing worse than working for their living and raising their children and who find themselves homeless because of a lack of security of tenure in the private sector. It is about time that MPs from all parties address the issue as it is, rather than as they might like it to be. Our constituents—the people out there—look incredulously at us as we seem to consider that, somehow, things are okay. They are not okay.

When I had a proper job, before I entered this House almost 20 years ago, I worked in the homelessness and housing association sector. Today, I see things in my suburban constituency that I never thought possible. The major reason for homelessness in my constituency—and, I am sure, in others in London—is mature families being evicted from assured shorthold tenancies in the private sector. These are not tenants who have been there a short while, abused the property or not paid their rent. In my experience—I am willing to share with any hon. Member the 147 cases that I have seen since 1 September that fall into this category—they are families with children at the top of primary school and the middle of secondary school. They are simply being evicted because the landlords can get more rent from somebody else and can realise the value of their assets. Neither of those things makes them bad individuals, but it makes for a very bad housing situation for someone to find themselves in.

There are consequences to this. I sit there and I go through the process. I say, “They’ll issue you with a section 21, then they’ll go off to the county court, then they’ll get a possession order and then you must wait for a bailiff’s warrant. You will get 10 days’ notice of the bailiff’s warrant, and when that comes, the council will put you in temporary accommodation in Luton.” We live in south-west London. Some of the people I have talked to did not know that a place called Luton existed, but they will soon find out. I am sure that Luton is a fine place, but if someone works in south-west London and their children go to school in south-west London, it is not the place where they want to live.

I have a controversial view on the prevention of homelessness Bill. I believe that it is a sticking plaster and does not resolve the problem. It simply puts more demand on local authorities, which cannot cope with what they have at the moment. At the heart of the matter is supply. At the heart of it is control, whether that is control over how much rent people have to pay, some control over landlords who are not prepared to maintain their properties or some control in terms of security of tenure. Unless those things are addressed, and addressed in numbers, the problem will not be resolved.

What are we doing to the children who find themselves in this position, who find themselves moving year on year, or six months on six months? These are kids who do well at school and want to be ambitious at school, but who never know or never experience the simple security of living in the same place for a reasonable length of time. That is life for people in my constituency, and the scary thing is that it is life for an ever growing proportion of people, not just people in poor, low-paid work - increasingly, that is life for people in middle-class jobs who simply cannot get on the housing ladder and cannot rent something that is in any way affordable.

When the White Paper was presented to the House yesterday, the Minister talked of families for whom rent is 50% of their income. I regularly see working families whose rent is 200% of their family income. We have a crisis. I realise that everyone wants to speak and I do not want to prevent anyone from speaking. It is about time that we stopped pussyfooting around. We have to build homes that people can afford. Anything else does not address the issue.'