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Everyone needs a home. And a good home can be the cornerstone of a happy life, the base from which people can thrive with their families, in their communities. 

But in Britain in 2024, far too many of us don’t have a good home. We are in the midst of a housing crisis. 300,000 people are homeless, 1.3 million families are waiting for a council home, nearly 1 in 5 renters are stuck in homes in bad or even unsafe condition. We’re often paying way over the odds as rent rises outpace wages, or are living with the stress of being served a no fault eviction notice.

Yet it’s only this week that the two biggest parties have laid out their stalls on housing. So what are the main housing issues, and what must our next Government do to stop the housing crisis? Our members have identified 4 key demands.

Standards 

Too many people are living with poor and often dangerous conditions, whether that’s damp, mould, fire hazards, poor lighting, overcrowding and poor temperature control. 

This doesn’t only pose the immediate and obvious risks to safety, health and wellbeing of those people living with these conditions, but also harms wider society in costs to the NHS, social care, and in missed development and education for young people.  

Labour have said they would extend Awaab’s Law, brought in in response to the death of two year old Awaab Ishaak who died of a respiratory condition caused by extensive mould, to privately rented homes. 

While this is welcome and long overdue, ACORN thinks measures to improve safety and standards should go further.

Local councils should have the legal duty, and crucially the resources, to massively increase inspections and enforcement action against landlords who fail to make their homes decent and safe, with fines, prosecutions and banning orders for those who fail to do this.

We also believe there should be a free ‘one-stop shop’ for tenants to raise any issues they are having with their landlord, so it is easier to raise issues earlier without cases being buried in a stack of paperwork, and without risk of reprisals from landlords.

Security & stability

The fear of having your life turned upside down by being evicted for no fault of your own is one of the major differences between private renting and owning your own home. 

This lack of security not only leads to stress and inconvenience for the tenants who have to move, but it makes people scared of complaining about bad living conditions, or negotiating on rent price, in case they are evicted in retaliation. 

We currently have the highest number of families in temporary accommodation we have ever had, many who have been evicted through Section 21, and have had to turn to the council as they can’t find somewhere else to live. This costs councils and the taxpayer millions, while families have to sleep in temporary unsuitable crowded housing. 

The Conservative Government failed to deliver even a much watered down version of the Renters Reform Bill, after years of foot dragging and attempts to appease backbench landlord MPs in recent months. The headline of this reform was the end of Section 21 evictions, which are still happening.

Whoever is elected must make the end of Section 21 evictions a priority, and must sure there are no loopholes that could be exploited to evict tenants by the back door. An unaffordable rent increase would force a family to move, so rent increases must be capped to the lower of inflation or wage growth. Landlords should only be able to end tenancies in limited circumstances, and must meet a high bar of evidence to do so.

Affordability

High rents are eating up earnings, leaving households with a lower quality of life and struggling to save. They are uprooting communities, with young adults unable to find homes in the cities they grew up in, and people forced to move away from their support networks.

One in 5 renters are spending more than half their income on rent, with the average private tenant spending 38% of their income on housing, compared with 18% spent by homeowners. 

With record rent rises, it’s clear that the market isn’t ‘regulating itself’. We need rent controls and rent stabilisation measures. No one should have to spend more than 30% of their income on rent, we need rent controls that bring rents down and maintain them at this level, with local incomes factored in when these levels are set. 

Council homes

All of these issues are underpinned by an overreliance on the unsuitable and unsustainable private rented sector. This is largely down to the lack of social homes available.

Since Right to Buy was introduced in 1980, more than 2 million council homes have been sold off. And 3 times more council homes are currently being sold off or demolished than are being built.  To get a grip on the housing crisis then we need not only to halt this trend, but to reverse it. 

All major parties have all committed to building new homes, but if we don’t build the right type of homes this won’t solve the problem.

We cannot expect private developers to build in a way that will reduce their current profit margins, and we shouldn’t be trying to incentivise them to build more by relaxing planning regulations that ensure our homes are spacious and enjoyable spaces to live in. Public funding for housing must be directed solely towards building council homes and must be coupled with providing the community infrastructure our communities need to thrive; doctors, schools, parks, pools, pubs.

We need government investment in a public house building programme that should aim to deliver 3.1 million council homes over 20 years. 

To conclude

We need bold solutions from the next Government, not just a redressing of the shop or fiddling around the edges of a housing system that is broken. 

Whatever party wins, they can be certain that ACORN members will continue to use collective, direct action to fight and win for our communities, and we won’t let up until everyone has a safe, secure and affordable place to call home. 

Anny Cullum is the Policy Officer at ACORN community union

The post Four issues our next Government must address to combat the housing crisis appeared first on Left Foot Forward: Leading the UK’s progressive debate.

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