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This Friday, Karen Buck, Labour MP for Westminster North, will be introducing legislation to Parliament designed to protect renters from homes unfit for human habitation, giving renters the legal right to ensure their home is ‘fit for human habitation’ and the ability to act where landlords fail to do so.

In the South East alone, almost 10% of privately rented housing, around 70,000 properties, are deemed unfit for human habitation. Yet, housing pressures are so great that tenants are often left without any choice other than to accept housing with infestations or which due to problems with unmet electrical, gas or fire regulations are fundamentally unsafe. Seven months on from Grenfell, it’s time the law changed to give people the power they need to ensure their housing is made safe.

Councils and housing associations were already made to get their own house in order under the last Labour Government’s Decent Homes programme, which provided funding to bring housing up to a reasonable standard. In Crawley, we went further, introducing and funding our own ‘Crawley Standard’ to ensure local council housing was brought up to a reasonable level.

This is the third time the Labour Party has tried to change the law to give tenants the right to housing ‘fit for human habitation’, the first two attempts having been blocked by Conservative MPs, many of whom happened to be landlords themselves.

Since 2010, Conservative Ministers have made it easier for bad landlords by scrapping Labour’s plan for a register of landlords, watering down Labour’s legislation which gives councils the freedom to ‘license’ private landlords and drive up standards in their area, and rejecting Labour’s proposals to introduce longer tenancies and controls on rents.

However, the proposal was included in Labour’s well-received manifesto at the last General Election and, following a Labour campaign, the Government now say they will support the legislation.

It’s sad that it has taken tragedy to bring focus to the need to improve housing conditions in this country, but I’m glad the Government has finally listened and that even in opposition Labour is still managing to deliver.

CllrPeterLamb_1.jpg

 

Cllr Peter Lamb

Leader, Crawley Borough Council

Labour managing to deliver in opposition

This Friday, Karen Buck, Labour MP for Westminster North, will be introducing legislation to Parliament designed to protect renters from homes unfit for human habitation, giving renters the legal right...

So, Christmas is upon us. Such is the increasingly frantic pace of politics these days that it really doesn’t feel like a full year has passed since the decorations were last up around town. The presence of the ice rink in Queens Square has certainly added something to the Christmassy feel of the town centre this year, alongside the lights, giant Christmas Tree and wide range of seasonal activities the council has helped to put on.

December, with the exception of Full Council, is usually pretty quiet at the council and councillors typically find their time filled up with attending local community events and enjoying the odd glass of mulled wine.

Behind all the glitter and the excess, it is community which sits at the heart of Christmas, whether that’s our friends and family, the groups we belong to or the neighbourhoods we live in. So, it is little surprise people tend to think more about charity and the importance of giving at this time of year.

Local Charities Day took place last week, celebrating the work voluntary organisations selflessly undertake in communities up and down the UK. In Crawley, we have so many amazing local charities which play an important role in improving the life of our community, from the fundraising efforts of the League of Friends of Crawley Hospital and the youth work of Crawley Community Youth Service to the couples counselling provided by Relate and the charity capacity building work of Crawley Community and Voluntary Service, on whose board I served for a year.

While it is great that so many see this time of year as an opportunity to play a more active role in local charitable activities, particularly those for the homeless, the reality is that such support is needed year round and not only during the season of good will. For those who are willing and able to do their part, there will still be plenty of opportunities to play a role in our community come the New Year.

In the meantime, could I wish you all and your families a very Merry Christmas.

CllrPeterLamb.jpgCllr Peter Lamb

Leader, Crawley Borough Council

And so this is Xmas

So, Christmas is upon us. Such is the increasingly frantic pace of politics these days that it really doesn’t feel like a full year has passed since the decorations were...

If there's one part of the UK's housing market which is thriving it's the private rented sector. As councils struggle to replace the social housing lost through decades of Right-to-Buy and young people remain priced out of becoming owner-occupiers, the private rented sector has seen huge growth over recent years. 

There's a place for a private rented sector in the housing market, but it also comes with problems and due to the national shortage of housing brought about by decades of lacklustre building all the power is in landlords' favour. 

Crawley Borough Council does have private sector housing officers try to resolve issues within the private rented sector and at our last Cabinet meeting we approved new powers for officers in dealing with rogue landlords. However, we can only go so far as legislation will permit, which is why we're now watching the progress of the new Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill. 

The proposed law is a Private Member's Bill, meaning it's an individual MP and not the Government who is bringing the legislation forward, in this case Labour's Karen Buck. The law will, for the first time, require rented accommodation to be maintained in a condition fit for human habitation, giving tenants the right to act if landlords fail to do so. 

Doesn't that seem like the very least a private tenant should be able to expect? Apparently not, because this is the third time Labour MPs have tried to get the requirement onto the statute book, the first attempt was talked out and the second was voted down by Conservative MPs. 

So, what are the chances of success this time? Ordinarily Private Member's Bills have no possibility of passing without Government support due to the majority they can call upon to vote a law down. Yet, as we now have a Hung Parliament, that built-in majority is no longer there. The Bill can pass and it's up to every MP to search their conscience and for every constituent to let their MP know they believe people deserve homes fit for human habitation. 

CllrPeterLamb.jpgCllr Peter Lamb

Leader, Crawley Borough Council

 

Homes fit to live in

If there's one part of the UK's housing market which is thriving it's the private rented sector. As councils struggle to replace the social housing lost through decades of Right-to-Buy...

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