Housing

Jeremy Corbyn: Labour will buy 8,000 homes to end rough sleeping

After record rough sleeping levels announced, Labour doubles election pledge as political parties go head-to-head on homelessness policy

Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn has announced plans for a future Labour government to purchase 8,000 properties to tackle the homelessness crisis immediately on taking office.

In an interview on The Andrew Marr Show, the Labour leader outlined the policy that doubles the manifesto pledge, to buy 4,000 properties, from last year’s General Election. It comes as Labour announced plans to “put an end to this national scandal” and end rough sleeping.

The new policy comes in response to the news that rough sleeping has reached record levels. Official government statistics state that 4,751 people are sleeping rough on a typical night in England – a 169 per cent increase since 2010, which Corbyn slammed as “disgraceful”.

Hang on, let’s look at the priorities here

Corbyn said: “We would immediately purchase 8,000 properties across the country to give immediate housing to those people that are currently homeless.

“At the same time we would require local authorities to build far more.”

The Labour Party said that the new homes would be a mix of “‘move-on’ housing for people leaving homelessness hostels” and would also see the introduction of housing first’ policies – whereby “rough sleepers with complex needs are moved into permanent accommodation quickly to give them a fresh start.”

Rough sleeping rises for seventh consecutive year

Corbyn also announced new powers for local authorities to put empty properties to use.

“We would give local authorities the power to take over deliberately kept vacant properties,” Corbyn told Andrew Marr. “When there is a lot of housing stress, many people rough sleeping, you get some luxury, glistening, gleaming block built and sold off plan to long distance overseas investors, who may buy and sell it before it is even built. Hang on, let’s look at the priorities here.

“Many people are homeless, many people are living in overcrowded accommodation, many middle class families’ children cannot leave home because they cannot raise the deposit for a private rented flat, have no chance of buying, and no chance of a council property. So there is the classic case of the market getting something completely wrong with ludicrous results.”

We asked Labour how the 8,000 properties would be paid for. Surprisingly, it was claimed that the expanded policy will involve no extra costs beyond those laid out in the 2017 election manifesto.

A Labour Party spokesperson said: “This is a commitment for additional homes to be earmarked for rough sleepers within the affordable housing programme and funding envelope that was set out at the election. There is, therefore, no extra funding needed.”

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Theresa May’s government has pledged to halve rough sleeping by 2022, and eradicate it entirely by 2027. However, Labour responded by saying that this would still leave rough sleeping at a higher level than in 2010 at the end of this Parliament.

Shadow Housing minister John Healey added: “The rising number of people sleeping on the streets and on park benches shames us all. There can be no excuses – we can end it and we must.

“Homelessness shames us all, but should shame Conservative ministers most. It is direct consequence of decisions made by the Tories on housing, and on funding for charities and councils. Under the last Labour government, years of sustained action cut rough sleeping by three-quarters, but it has more than doubled since 2010.

“You can’t help the homeless if you don’t provide the homes. A Labour government would put a stop to this national scandal and provide those who need it most with a place to call home.”

As the debate over how to tackle the rise in homelessness continues, the issue has rarely been higher on the political agenda. Join in the conversation at The Big Issue Platform

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