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At the heart of the Homelessness Reduction Act was the desire to intervene in cases as early as possible, to provide vulnerable people and families with consistent, solid advice wherever they seek help, and to ensure that standards are maintained nationwide.

As a long serving London politician, I have seen people and families stuck in a vicious cycle of vulnerability, homelessness and powerlessness. People become homeless for any combination of reasons: ill health, loss of employment, addiction and family breakdown to name but a few. Once they find themselves sleeping in their car, on a park bench or in a shop doorway – even once – the cycle starts, and they have an almighty battle to get off the streets and into safe accommodation.

Aside from the obvious challenges, being homeless reduces life expectancy and leaves already vulnerable people exposed to abuse. Homeless people are attacked on the street on a sickeningly frequent basis and dehumanised by the day to day struggle of getting by and surviving.

Nationwide, there must be a gold standard for what advice people receive from local authorities. This was included within the Homelessness Reduction Act – so you can visit any Civic Centre or County Hall and receive the same guidance as if you were to approach a different local authority. It is important that vulnerable people do not get caught up in a postcode lottery and that standards are enforced across local housing departments.

I was careful not to create a Bill which could lead to rash interventions in the housing market as this, in turn, could have unintended consequences. The entire Homelessness Reduction Act was therefore built upon a solid research base with immeasurable scrutiny – by the government, the Housing, Communities and Local Government select committee, the Bill Committee and by stakeholders such as Crisis.

Besides extending the period ‘threatened with homelessness’ from 28 to 56 days, the Act places a duty on local authorities to prevent and relieve homelessness for all eligible applicants threatened with homelessness, regardless of priority need. It also introduces a new ‘duty to refer’ – which means that public services will need to notify a local authority if they come into contact with someone they think may be homeless or at risk of becoming so.

The National Housing Federation described the Act as “the biggest change to homelessness legislation in 40 years”. But we can do more. Beyond the Act we must examine how to increase the supply of good quality housing stock, while not burdening local authorities or housing associations, and ensuring developers stick to promises and crack on with new build completions. I have a few suggestions. Something which worries me is how we manage land. The transfer of land from public to private ownership usually takes the form of highest bid wins: not looking at what the prospective owner wants to do with the site, nor thinking of whether suitable and affordable housing will be placed there. Thus land in the immediate area spikes in price. This spike becomes the new norm and the cycle repeats. This is not a healthy or sustainable market.

This cycle affects the price of houses for prospective buyers and rental rates for new or existing tenants. Particularly in urban and suburban settings, as I see in Harrow East, people often struggle to make rent or mortgage payments as a result of land and property speculation. These pressures are particularly felt by those in private rented accommodation who hope to buy a property in the city.

My solution would be for planning permission to be sought before public land is sold for the type of residential development which the area requires, according to demand and factors such as the density of the local population. Local residents would be notified and consulted as part of the process. Then, once permission is granted, Homes England would contract a developer to see to the plans. Taxpayers need assurances that a council will not squander millions on such a procurement process, hence why Homes England should take the lead.

An incentive for local authorities to identify the public land which they own and to go to these lengths would be for the Treasury to design and implement a compensation scheme. This would not be a case of the Treasury granting several millions which an authority might waste, but rather giving a sum of money equal to the value of land which must be invested in public services. This compensation could apply to government departments, especially the Department of Health and the Ministry of Defence.

After the development of new homes on previously public land, the time comes to set rental rates or the sale price. These figures should be pegged to costs incurred by construction – materials, labour, and services – but in absolutely no way can the developer, or whomever leads this calculation, use land value when undertaking the task. It would be amoral given the nature of the proposed scheme and also lead to a significant price spike, denying many prospective buyers the chance to purchase a home.

I would insert a clause in rental agreements which would give any tenant who continuously occupies one of these properties on previously public land for ten years without break the right to buy at the market value at time of occupation. This new kind of rent to buy could be transformative and would certainly increase the supply of affordable housing.

Finally, Section 21 notices have a direct impact on tenants and landlords. Longer tenancy agreements should be available to tenants and must make clear how and when rents can or will be increased. However, we must remember that not all tenants want long-term tenancies. A pathway must remain open for landlords to evict tenants who consistently fail to pay rent or damage the property.

Housing and homelessness must be at the core of the new administration’s domestic agenda and that is why I took heart when the new Housing Secretary said “let’s build the homes our country needs and make home ownership a reality for this and future generations” – time is not on our side, and we must act swiftly.

Bob Blackman was an MP and member of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee. This article first appeared in our Centre Write magazine On the home front. Views expressed in this article are those of the author, not necessarily those of Bright Blue.