Wera Hobhouse MP: Everyone should have the right to safe, secure housing 

It's time to end 'no-fault' evictions and build more social homes

A row of houses UK

We are in the midst of a housing crisis where there is simply not enough social housing available to meet demand and unaffordable private rental properties are pricing long-term residents out of their homes.

As fewer people are able to afford their rent, and more are being forced from their homes on a whim by unfair landlords, it is high time that we reformed how we approach the housing system in the UK. We need affordable, comfortable and sustainable homes so that no one is forced to sleep on the streets this freezing winter. 

It is no wonder we have a broken housing system and had a record number of rough sleepers last year, when our country’s politicians regard homelessness as a lifestyle choice”. With callous comments like those of the former Home Secretary, this government has created a culture which shames the very people it has neglected and left behind. 

Throughout my time in Parliament, I have had countless constituents write to me in distress, detailing precarious housing situations. Some fear that they may not be able to afford rent that month, others worry that they will face eviction if they complain to landlords about the mould in their homes. I have also worked with homelessness charities who support thousands of vulnerable individuals each year, with demand increasing in recent months. These are not circumstances that anyone should be forced to grapple with. 

It is not hardworking and overburdened homelessness charities that we should be relying on to fix the broken housing system. It is the government. Abysmal Conservative mismanagement has left us with an acute housing shortage, eye watering rent inflation and thousands sleeping on the streets. Tenants continue to be forced from their homes without reason thanks to the government’s reluctance to follow through on their 2019 promise to ban ‘No-Fault’ evictions. It is time we changed our approach to housing in the UK, and this will not come without a change in leadership. 

I am proud to represent a Party with a long history of tackling homelessness. In 2022, our tireless work to end the Vagrancy Act 1824, which criminalises homelessness, paid off as the government passed legislation to scrap the outdated act. Yet, there is so much more we can do to ensure that everyone has a safe place to live. 

One of the most effective models to end rough sleeping once and for all is to adopt the Housing First principle across the UK. This approach has seen huge success across the globe, especially in Finland where homelessness has been reduced to a ‘functional zero’.

Everyone has the right to safe and stable housing. Vulnerable people in need of a roof over their heads should not be made to jump through hoops before they can access shelter. Instead, adopting the Housing First model ensures that people in need are quickly moved into secure housing. Following this, they can be given dedicated support to address any complex needs they might have; for example, alcohol and drug dependency or problems with their mental and physical health. How can we expect unhoused people to be able to address their needs without a stable environment to do so? 

In addition to the Housing First model, local authorities should be given a larger responsibility, and adequate funding, to ensure early intervention to prevent homelessness within their community. Local governments are best placed to address the needs of their community and understand the contributing factors to rough sleeping in their area. It is vital that the government gives them adequate support to do this. While I welcomed their announcement last week to increase the funding budget for local authorities to tackle homelessness by £17 million, this simply does not go far enough. This funding will not enable local authorities to properly develop long-term secure accommodation. The £300,000 allocated to Bristol City Council, for example, will barely scratch the surface to tackle the crux of housing problems in the South West.

There are many more solutions that could be explored by the government to drastically resolve the extent of rough sleeping in the UK. We Liberal Democrats are committed to ending ‘No-Fault’ evictions and increasing the housing supply in England, building at least 150,000 social homes a year. Sadly, we have no hope of reforming the housing system with a government that espouses ideology that deems homelessness to be a “lifestyle choice”. Instead, it is high time they heeded calls for a general election so that we can begin to fix their broken system.

Wera Hobhouse is the Liberal Democrats’ Climate Change and Transport Spokesperson and MP for Bath 

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