As Chelmsford’s MP I work with local authorities, volunteers and charities to make sure that, together, we do all we can to address the issues which result in homelessness.
Access to affordable and social housing in Chelmsford is a significant issue. We must make sure people can get on to, and climb up, the housing ladder, protect tenants and solve rough sleeping.
Across the Chelmsford district about 1,000 new homes are being built each year. In larger developments, Chelmsford City Council aims for 35% of these to be affordable. The largest Social Housing landlord in Chelmsford, CHP, aims to build at least 365 homes every year, though these are not all in Chelmsford. I believe is important that new housing must be accompanied by infrastructure, and that valuable green places should be protected.
The Government’s commitment to delivering more homes was underpinned by a £15.3 billion package of new financial support for housing bringing total support for housing to at least £44 billion by 2022-23. The Government has permanently increased the price at which first time buyers pay stamp duty to £300,000, with homes worth up to £500,000 benefiting. This reform has cut Stamp Duty for 95 per cent of first-time buyers and taken 80 per cent of first-time buyers out of Stamp Duty altogether.
The Government is taking action to make the private rented sector fairer for tenants, this includes a raft of new measures to crack down on rogue landlords, stamp out overcrowding and improve standards for those renting. There will be a new Housing Complaints Resolution Service, as well as access to redress for leaseholders, private tenants and students in privately run accommodation. The Government is taking a number of measures to improve transparency and fairness for leaseholders and freeholders, to reform the funding for Supported housing which helps older and vulnerable people to live independently and to introduce a new deal for social housing residents in order to improve the experience of those living in social housing.
Tackling Homelessness is also a priority. The Government has committed to halving rough sleeping by 2022 and ending rough sleeping altogether by 2027. It has allocated over £1.2 billion to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping through to 2020. The Rough Sleeping Strategy is expected to provide rapid support to up to 6,000 vulnerable people either new to the streets or at risk of becoming rough sleepers.
Chelmsford City Council have responsibility for homelessness and rough sleeping in Chelmsford. The rough sleepers often circulate between Chelmsford, Southend, Colchester and, to a lesser extent, Ipswich. There are many reasons why people become rough sleepers and it is not always obvious to differentiate those who are begging from those who are homeless. The vast majority of rough sleepers do not always seek assistance for accommodation from Chelmsford City Council or homeless charities. This can be due to addiction problems, which are often underpinned by mental health issues. Therefore, Chelmsford City Council works with other agencies to provide support for rough sleepers. For example, Open Road works with rough sleepers to provide drug and alcohol rehabilitation and support. CHESS run a night shelter in Chelmsford and offer rough sleepers structured ongoing support. During the cold winter months, Chelmsford City Council engages with CHESS to provide the Winter Project.
The police will only intervene with rough sleepers if they are engaged in anti-social or criminal behaviour. Rough sleeping itself does not constitute either of these things, therefore, although it can be a source of concern for members of the public, the police do not have powers to move rough sleepers on. Chelmsford City Council have been clearing unattended bedding from the city centre for some time. They only remove unattended items and Chelmsford’s rough sleepers are aware that this is done.
Chelmsford City Council and many voluntary organisations across Chelmsford work hard to help the most vulnerable homeless people. They are hoping to start some new initiatives, which I am pleased to support.