Wera Hobhouse argues for more social homes for rent

99 families stand to lose the chance of a socially rented home in Wera Hobhouse’s Bath constituency after the Planning Minister failed to call in a planning decision. In what Wera described as “social cleaning”, these families will be forced out of the city.

In an adjournment debate last night, Wera took her argument directly to the Housing and Planning Minister. She outlined the direct consequences of the lack of social housing provision:

What about the 99 most vulnerable families, who will now simply be moved out of their home city of Bath? They cannot stay because there will be 99 fewer social homes for rent under the current plans. This sort of social cleansing is unacceptable and it gives the Government the reputation of being uncaring. The Minister will know that I requested him to call in the planning decision that reduced the number of social homes for rent by 99, but he refused to do so. The implication is that this reduction in social homes for rent is in line with Government policy, but on Monday the Secretary of State, in a quick reply, said it was not Government policy to reduce the number of social homes to rent. It cannot be both things in this specific instance, so what is the answer?

Wera outlined the scale of the problem. The number of houses being built for social rent is plummeting:

Government statistics show that nearly 40,000 social homes for rent were built in 2010-11, and the figure for 2016-17 was just 5,380. In the 2016-17 financial year, 12,383 council homes were sold under the right-to-buy scheme. Year in, year out, the number of social homes for rent is being reduced.

The human consequences are horrific:

If the Government think this safety net of social homes is working just fine, Grenfell Tower stands as a tragic example to show that it is not. Today, the homelessness charity Shelter has given the facts and figures on homelessness and those in temporary accommodation as of now. Its report reveals a trend that is getting worse each year. A shocking 128,000 children in Britain will wake up homeless and in temporary accommodation this Christmas. That is one in every 111 children in this country and their parents, living in emergency bed and breakfasts and hostels, which are widely considered by experts in this field to be the worst type of temporary accommodation. Let us be clear: one in every 111 children in Britain would not be living in emergency B&Bs or hostels this Christmas if there was more social housing. All the Government’s talk about affordable homes does not house a single one of these children and their parents.

Wera was aided and abetted in her debate by Jamie Stone. He comes from a very different constituency to Wera, vast and rural. Both he and Wera are former councillors so understand the pressure councils are under to service their housing debt.

Jamie asked:

One problem we have in Scotland, as my hon. Friend will know, is the housing debt that Scottish local authorities are landed with—it is like a colossus. We spend our time trying to service this debt, which gets in the way of building houses for people who need them, as she says. I hope that at some stage Her Majesty’s Government will look at getting rid of this housing debt, which is crippling and is standing in the way of homes being built for people who need them.

You can read the whole debate, and the MInister’s totally inadequate response, here.

The lack of social housing for those on the lowest incomes should actually be the top priority of a government. If people have security of housing that helps with every other aspect of their lives. Somewhere decent to live at a rent that doesn’t cripple you financially should be a basic right. We should be very angry that we fail so many. Instead , we’re going to be spending the next few years prioritising a Brexit which will make it even less likely that we can afford the sort of investment in social housing we so desperately need.


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