Having a stable home of your own, be that rented or bought, really matters. Report after report demonstrates the importance of having not just a roof over your head but a secure, stable and affordable home too. This matters to everyone, and especially to families, where moving from pillar to post is highly detrimental to children’s learning and well-being. This is an area I have campaigned on long before I became an MP and I continue to take a deep interest in housing and homeless prevention.
Last week in Parliament I raised the situation of residents in Sholden and fire safety in new homes. Shockingly, their developer had failed to put in place fire breaks in some new homes. Even where this has been checked or remedied, it remains the case that for some of the homes affected by the fire break review, home owners still do not have safety certificates issued to them. That’s appalling and that type of attitude and approach needs to change.
That’s why I was pleased for the opportunity this week to set out the work I am involved in to ensure that there is an end to shoddy new homes. I have for some time been working on bringing in a new body to oversee housebuilders, a new code of quality and service standards and a new homes ombudsman service. The work took a leap forward this week as I signed off the final design for the register of developers so that the first developers can start to apply to register shortly. It will apply going forward to new homes reserved on a site after the developer has been fully registered and completed all their necessary training for the new standards. The new homes ombudsman service will also launch this year for the new homes under this scheme, and will be free to consumers to get redress.
Another longstanding area of concern is rent levels. It has been my long-standing view that some rent levels don’t give tenants value for money, or taxpayers either where those rents are supported through welfare. I’ve long called for a ‘Fair Rent’ process to regulate rents, so that tenants pay a fair market price for their housing. There has been an explosion in the size of the private rented sector over the last fifteen or so years. It has resulted in a huge shift from home ownership and social renting into more expensive private rented housing. That’s got to change, as the current system leaves too many people without a secure, stable and affordable home.
In Winter months, everyone is always more mindful of rough sleeping. That’s why it is welcome news that the Government has awarded nearly £500,000 extra to the Dover District for homeless prevention and domestic violence support. The Government has committed to ending rough sleeping altogether. That’s something I want to see us all working together on to make happen.