LETTER: Action to ease housing crisis

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To highlight concerns about the measures proposed in the Housing and Planning Bill making its way through parliament, members of Horsham Labour Party endured, for one night, the cold and discomfort of rough sleeping (West Sussex County Times, 21 April 2016, ‘Sleep out next to council office’).

We are aware that this horrendous experience is a reality for thousands of homeless people every night. We are also aware that for those people experiencing homelessness in Horsham, things are particularly grim.

Horsham District Council has an obligation to help those homeless people who are considered to be in priority need. Those that fail to fulfil Horsham council’s very narrow qualifying criteria get very little support, that is why increasing numbers of people are sleeping rough in Horsham’s parks and any sheltered areas they can find.

Fears that the proposals contained in the Housing Bill will significantly increase homelessness are amongst the reasons why there is a growing campaign to see the Bill defeated. The Bill’s passage through the Lords has resulted in significant amendments which aim to eliminate its most pernicious proposals. Horsham Labour Party is calling upon Horsham’s MP Jeremy Quin to support the Lords’ amendments.

We call upon Jeremy to oppose proposals that will result in a decrease in the stock of much needed affordable housing association homes. The government says that any home sold will be replaced; funded by the sale of high value council homes.

Horsham District does not have any council homes, so how will the deficit be made up here? At a time when house prices and private sector rents are out of reach for so many, surely our MP should be calling for more affordable housing for social rent, not supporting proposals that will deliver less. Without these homes where will those unable to afford private market rates live?

The Bill also calls for increases in rents to market levels for social housing tenants where household income is over £30,000 per annum.

Jeremy Quin believes that this is fair as he says the median household income is £26,000 per annum. However, the average market rent for a family home in Horsham is currently in excess of £13,000 per annum. He, therefore, appears to believe that it is entirely acceptable for a family to pay over 50 percent of their net household income on rent. With less than 50 per cent of income to spend on all other household costs, the likelihood of rent arrears and eviction is considerably greater.

At a time when local council budgets are cut to the bone, levels of support for those struggling with their housing costs is negligible. The risk of homelessness for those struggling with housing costs is, therefore, significant.

Jeremy Quin made much of his experience of working with the homeless in his election campaign last year. We call upon him to demonstrate his understanding of this issue by urging his colleagues in parliament to think again about the measures in the Bill.We challenge Jeremy Quin and his Tory colleagues to deliver a Bill that will end the housing crisis rather than making it worse.


Horsham Labour Party , Clarence Road, Horsham


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