August 2020: News from your local MP
Autumn housing crisis fears
My work as Shadow Housing Secretary
AS another Parliamentary term comes to an end, I thought you may be interested in hearing what I have been doing as Shadow Housing Secretary. As an opposition front bencher, it is my job to expose the gaps in government policies and push them to do better.
Warning of a wave of homelessness
Even before this pandemic, people often talked about a ‘housing crisis’ with growing numbers of people unable to afford a decent place to live. But the current situation has exacerbated many of these problems, possibly leading to a much more serious crisis.
There may be several million renters who have lost their incomes and fallen behind on their rent, according to some charities. The government paused evictions during lockdown, but this protection is due to expire on 24 August, potentially leading to a huge spike in evictions and homelessness this autumn and winter.
Together with other Labour colleagues, I have called for several support policies to help people keep their homes. I recently secured an urgent discussion of these policies in Parliament, but the government failed to reassure people who may be wondering where they will be sleeping as the days shorten.
Calling out unhelpful subsidies
Where the government is offering help, it is often to those who least need it. The Treasury recently announced a reduction in stamp duty, the tax on buying a house. Fair enough, if it helps people get on the housing ladder – but they also quietly extended this subsidy to buyers of buy-to-let properties, holiday homes and other second homes. I called this out, because it will end up making homes less affordable for those who need them most.
Building safety after Grenfell
My housing work has not all been related to the pandemic. This June we marked the third anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire. My colleagues and I are pressing the government to make urgent changes, as three years on from this tragic event there are still 56,000 people living in buildings with unsafe cladding. Many of these people are forced to pay hundreds of pounds every month for a ‘waking watch’, while others are unable to sell their homes.
At the current rate, it would take decades for all these homes to be made safe – which is clearly not good enough.
Rooting out Tory sleaze
Many of you have written to me about my opposite number, Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick. Over the last few months my colleagues and I have been pressing him to urgently clarify why he helped Tory donor Richard Desmond avoid up to £50 million in tax for a housing development. His story keeps unravelling, so we will keep the pressure up. There is no place for this kind of sleaze in public life.
As you can see, it has been an eventful and busy few months. I am already working towards Parliament restarting in the autumn, where I will continue to fight for everyone to have a truly affordable, low-carbon, well-built home.
Enjoy the summer, and please stay safe.