Our housing market is fundamentally broken. We have a crisis of affordability, with not enough genuinely affordable houses being built. We have a crisis of housing quality, where far too many houses fail to meet a liveable standard. People in my constituency and across the country are paying the price for years of failed policy and government inaction.
Since I was elected, not a week has gone by in which I have not heard horror story after horror story from people about mould, damp, exposed asbestos, broken appliances, rats, vermin, and so many other issues. Tenants are afraid to speak out in case they face eviction or cannot re-sign their contract. Renters are being gradually priced out of areas by landlords who are unchecked, unchallenged, and feel no consequence for their actions.
In Sheffield, 28% of private rentals and 4% of social rented housing have category one hazards such as excess cold or risks of falls, according to the housing charity shelter. Nationally, they report that a third of privately rented homes fail to meet the Government’s Decent Homes Standard.
As well as this, our homes are the least energy efficient in Europe, which is driving up energy bills and usage. With the cost-of-living crisis, far too many are being forced to decide between heating and eating.
This is an emergency, and it needs responding to as one. After World War II, the newly elected Labour Government made it its priority to fix housing and give people liveable homes. Sheffield saw slum clearances and great public housing works—including the streets-in-the-sky design of Park Hill and the radical Gleadless Valley estate. Then we saw large scale developments to meet demand.
We need to see that level of ambition again to meet the crisis head on.
Upcoming legislation on renter reform and social housing regulation provide a once in a generation opportunity to build a new and improved housing system. We can’t let this Government squander it.
That’s why I’m launching a public consultation to assess the state of housing in Sheffield Hallam. I will be undertaking regular surveys to detail the housing issues in our constituency, to help inform my campaigns in Parliament and ensure Government legislation addresses the issues people are facing and shows the ambition our city needs.