Melanie Onn: 120,000 children will wake up tomorrow without a home and in temporary accommodation
We rightly see the rise in rough sleeping on our streets as a national disgrace. But it is vital that those in temporary accommodation are not forgotten in actions to alleviate homelessness, writes Melanie Onn
The Conservative party conference kicked off with the announcement of a levy on foreign buyers to fund aspects of the government’s rough sleeping strategy announced in the summer.
While the exact details of the policy, and how much money can be expected to be raised from it, are currently subject to consultation, this marks the first new money pledged to the rough sleeping strategy after it was revealed the £100m previously announced funding was already earmarked to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
New money into preventing rough sleeping is always welcome, particularly given the doubling in rough sleeping numbers we’ve seen over the past eight years, but this new money alone won’t be enough to end rough sleeping. The budget must include more funding for methods to end rough sleeping if we are to meet the government’s aim to eradicate it within a decade.
We must also remember that rough sleeping is not the only form of homelessness. We rightly see the number of people on our streets as a national disgrace, but it is vital that those in temporary accommodation are not forgotten in actions to alleviate homelessness.
The current crisis in temporary accommodation is dire; 120,000 children will wake up tomorrow without a home and many will share bathrooms and kitchens with complete strangers and, shockingly, over a half of those families with children in temporary accommodation are in work.
Growing up in temporary accommodation can have a devastating effect on the lives of children, and the Still No Place Like Home report by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman highlighted cases of families spending 26 weeks in B&Bs, being forced to move 60 miles away from their schools and communities, and families being forced to live in dirty, damp and cockroach-infested accommodation.
So we need to urgently tackle this crisis as part of our homelessness strategy.
That’s why the measure to put a levy on second homes, announced during Labour’s conference, goes further than the government’s levy on foreign buyers and looks to help those in temporary accommodation and at risk of homelessness as well as those on the streets.
Labour’s levy is particularly targeted at those who can afford a second home for their own use, and would not include homes occupied by tenants, or static caravans, and would act as a solidarity payment from those who can afford two homes to those who have no home.
The average fee of around £3,000 per property, in line with our proposals for empty homes, could raise up to £560m per year and be earmarked for local councils to help get people off the streets, help provide permanent accommodation for those without, and provide services like tenancy support and benefits help.
This would provide a significant boost to councils who are struggling to provide the services that would be invaluable to local citizens who are struggling with housing concerns but is only one of the measures we’d propose.
We’d also tighten up tenancy rules to help prevent private evictions, now the leading cause of statutory homelessness, by banning section 21 evictions, build more affordable homes to stop rents spiralling out of control, and provide 8,000 homes to long-term rough sleepers as part of a prime minister-led drive to end rough sleeping within five years.
The government has a track record of turning to Labour policy when they’ve caused a crisis, and they must do again if they are serious about helping the homeless.
Melanie Onn is Labour MP for Great Grimsby and shadow minister for housing