Newbury MP, Richard Benyon, yesterday led a debate in Westminster Hall on private renting solutions for homeless and vulnerable people.
In his speech Richard said: “The private rented sector is an increasingly important route out of homelessness. When renting works for homeless people, it can be life changing. It is often a huge step towards finding a job, reconnecting with family and rebuilding lives.”
The serious problem in housing supply was highlighted in the Government’s Housing White Paper on Tuesday which also outlined changes that would make the private rented sector more affordable and more secure. But Richard said that additional support was needed if private renting was to work for the homeless and vulnerable.
He praised the work of Crisis, the homelessness charity, in this field and outlined two potential solutions. The Help to Rent scheme matches tenants with landlords and provides financial guarantees for deposits and rent, with ongoing support for both parties. Landlords have the reassurance of a named point of contact if something goes wrong and tenants receive support including help with budgeting and getting and maintaining employment. The 8,000 tenancies set up under this scheme in recent years, saw a sustainment rate of 90% which represents an incredible achievement.
Crisis is also calling on the Government to establish a national rent deposit guarantee scheme. This would provide help-to-rent projects with greater financial security with landlords safe in the knowledge that their property is protected, and free up help-to-rent schemes to support tenants, working in a similar way to the Help to Buy scheme for those who are just about managing and for whom purchasing a home is just not realistic.
Richard also highlighted the issues around mental health and vulnerable people. He said: “Mental health problems can cause homelessness and homelessness can cause mental health problems. In this place we think of things only in silos. We have a very good Minister here from one Department, but if we really are to deal with this problem we ought to have a whole range of Ministers from the Department of Health, the Ministry of Defence and Education plus people from all the organisations who care for people … so that we can do so in in a much more cohesive way.”
Richard closed by saying: “I am pleased that the Prime Minister has made housing a priority in her wish to lead a Government that helps those people left behind who have not benefited from recent economic growth.”
Marcus Jones, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government, responded to the debate.
He confirmed that the Government had made a significant investment of £14 million working with Crisis to develop a programme for single people to access private rented accommodation. He agreed with Richard that there should be a line of Ministers to respond to the issues, saying, “In that spirit, I chair a ministerial working group that brings together various Departments and Ministers to see what more we can do to deal with the underlying issues that relate to homelessness. “
“We have also set up a private rented sector affordability and security working group. On that working group, we have Shelter, Crisis, Generation Rent and landlord and letting agent representatives, and it is in the process of finalising its report. We have asked those organisations to work with us to see how we can reduce the costs and barriers people face in accessing private rented accommodation.”