Monday, 7 July 2014

Panicking for the wrong reasons

I make no apology for returning to this Government’s appalling housing record. Its housing policies fly in the face of logic and sensibility. Conservative and Liberal Democrat Ministers are in complete denial about the impact on individuals, families and communities.

Like all MPs, I meet the victims day-in, day-out. It is not possible to go to a residents’ meeting or a local bring-and-buy or fayre or even to go shopping without someone wanting to talk about housing problems.

New house building has fallen to its lowest levels in peacetime since the 1920s.

The very first new coalition government housing decision in 2010 was to cut the affordable housing budget by 60%. Unsurprisingly, the number of affordable homes built in the last year was just two-thirds the number built in 2009/10.

The number of homes built for social rent has fallen by 75% since 2009/10 to 7,759 the lowest in twenty years and since records began.

Last week, the House of Commons Library revealed that since 2010, a housing gap (the gap between housing supply and demand) of more than 500,000 homes – nearly 46,000 in Yorkshire and Humberside - has arisen due to the Government’s failure to build the homes the country needs.

After a decade of falling numbers, homelessness has risen by a third since 2010 and rough sleeping is up by nearly a third. The number of families with children living in bed and breakfasts is at a 10 year high and the number in B&Bs illegally (more than six weeks) has risen by 800%. .

Meanwhile the government is fuelling house price inflation and the Bank of England is being forced to intervene to cap mortgage lending policies. Owner occupation is becoming simply unaffordable for many low to middle income families.

This week, a leaked government document revealed that the number of new homes to be built this year will be even lower than last. Ministers are now panicking because the actual figures will be published before the next general election.

Are they now acting urgently because they are concerned about the thousands of families who are in B&B, or living with relatives or friends, or in over-crowded bed-sitters? No. I don’t think so. They’re only concerned about avoiding a bad news story next year.

For thousands of families, the housing prospects are bleak.