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Abena Oppong-Asare MP speaks on Affordable and Safe Housing for All

On 18th May 2021, Abena Oppong-Asare MP spoke in the House of Commons on Affordable and Safe Housing for All. You can find the full debate here or read Abena’s contribution below: 

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It is a pleasure to speak in this debate. I welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell) to her new position. She is already doing a great job. Today, I will speak about the housing crisis that affects far too many of my constituents. The crisis takes many forms: families living in cramped, overcrowded accommodation; renters struggling with sky-high rents in the private rented sector; leaseholders trapped in dangerous flats with the Government letting them down; and people priced out of their local areas and struggling to save enough money to buy. Too often my constituents are at the sharp end of the crisis. The Queen’s Speech was an opportunity to begin to solve those problems—to build more council homes and make safety a priority for all, to end the leaseholder scandal, and to properly regulate the private rental market.

Instead, the Government are choosing to introduce a Planning Bill that will take power away from local communities and hinder, not help, efforts to build more social housing. The Government’s failure to invest in social housing means that, according to Shelter, 10 times as many new social rented homes were delivered through section 106 obligations as through Government investment. The Planning Bill will greatly reduce the scope for local authorities to insert those obligations into planning applications, meaning less social housing despite the scale of the housing crisis that we face. Instead, the Government need to give councils the powers and money to build more social rented homes as soon as possible.

The absence of a social housing Bill is a huge gap in the Queen’s Speech. It is now nearly four years since the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower. In the aftermath of that appalling event, I was involved in community engagement on behalf of the Mayor of London. I heard at first hand from those in the community who had been repeatedly ignored as they raised concerns about the safety of their homes. I pay tribute once again to the dignity and courage of the bereaved and the survivors.

In the years that have followed, the Government have repeatedly promised to reform the social housing sector. In the document accompanying the Queen’s Speech, they say:

“We will also continue to develop reform of social housing regulations and look to legislate as soon as practicable.”

But we simply cannot wait any longer. We need action now. The failure to include safeguards for social housing tenants and leaseholders in this year’s Queen’s Speech is simply unacceptable. I do welcome the building safety Bill, but this is yet another missed opportunity to help hundreds of thousands of leaseholders, who are being forced to pay to correct a problem that is not their fault. I urge the Government to listen to the growing consensus from across the political divide.