Housing Supply and Planning
While planning is an issue for local councils, my office receives many emails on planning applications. Last year, I held a debate on these issues, raising the issue of unsuitable developments, the green belt and the need ensure we are building the right type of housing. You can read this debate here.
Before being elected to Parliament, I spent three years working for Church Army raising money to create a hostel and day centre for homeless women in London. This work gave me an invaluable insight into homelessness. I came to realise that there are many potential issues which can lead to someone becoming homeless, family breakdown being the main one. Added to this are the problems of alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence, mental health issues and in some cases the inability to manage one’s own affairs.
The above leads to what we might call one type of homelessness. However, there will also be situations where none of the above applies, and where individuals and families, perhaps, have insufficient income to cope. In certain circumstances, there may be a shortage of certain types of housing. The complex circumstances surrounding homelessness require us to have an approach which addresses these various issues and I welcome that the government is doing so, spending £1.2 billion through to 2020 to tackle the issue.
The government has also implemented the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, published our £100 million rough sleeping strategy and taken immediate action to begin to reduce the number of people on the streets. The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 came into force on 3 April 2018, signifying the biggest change to homelessness legislation in 40 years. This brought in new duties to prevent and relieve homelessness, such as:
- a new duty to prevent homelessness for all eligible homeless applicants and those threatened with homelessness, regardless of priority need
- an extension of the period ‘threatened with homelessness’ from 28 to 56 days
- a new ‘duty to refer’ on public services to notify a local authority if they come into contact with someone they think may be homeless or at risk of becoming homeless
Although there are no specific duties on housing associations, the sector can support many aspects of the Act, including making a voluntary commitment to notify the local authority if they come into contact with someone they think is at risk of becoming homeless.