Horsham Labour Party brought the protest against the government’s housing bill to the streets of Horsham on Friday April 15.
Members gathered outside Horsham District Council’s offices to take part in the National Sleep Out - the latest action organised by the Kill the Housing Bill campaign.
Protesters spent a cold April night huddled in sleeping bags beneath the canopy at the front of the council offices in North Street. Their aim was to highlight the increasing levels of homelessness that are being seen right across the country, including in Horsham.
Latest figures show that the number of people sleeping on the streets has increased by a third in the past year and by more than half since 2010.
Horsham Labour Party’s campaign coordinator Carol Hayton said: “As a result of the government austerity measures, benefits and services have been drastically cut back, leaving the most vulnerable in our communities struggling to access the support they need to keep a roof over their head.
“Supporters of the Kill the Housing Bill campaign believe that the Conservative government’s Housing and Planning Bill, which is currently making its way through parliament, will make the situation significantly worse.
“Measures in the bill will massively reduce the availability of affordable housing to rent by eliminating the planning requirement to build social housing on new developments.
“Existing stocks of council and housing association homes will be reduced by the extension of the right-to-buy to housing association tenants, councils will be forced to sell off their high value council houses to fund the Right to Buy offer.
“Many council and housing association tenants will see their rents increase to unaffordable private market levels by the ‘Pay to Stay’ measures proposed in the bill.”
David Hide, chair of Horsham Labour Party, took part in the demonstration.
He commented: “Those of us who have joined this protest have experienced for one night the conditions that are a reality for thousands every night. The cold, discomfort and lack of security are likely to become a reality for even more people if this bill goes through.
“The bill aims to destroy social housing. It means higher rents, less security, and less chance of a home people can afford.
“We have seen increasing numbers of homeless people in Horsham. Horsham Council offers very little in the way of support for those who are homeless or in fear of homelessness, as those currently forced to sleep in our parks and open spaces have testified. The cuts to local government council funding will mean that they will have even fewer resources to deal with the housing crisis.
“As a result we will see even more people on our streets or sleeping in the few sheltered areas available to them, like this area outside the council offices. We are, therefore, calling upon the government to think again about the measures in the bill. We challenge Our MP Jeremy Quin and his Tory colleagues to deliver a bill that will end the housing crisis rather than making it worse.”
He added that police and the district council were aware of the demonstration and had no objection to it going ahead.
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