It was a pleasure to meet with some of Shelter's hardworking staff in Norwich on Friday to discuss the Fitness for Human Habitation Bill, and some of the other housing/homelessness issues which affect our city.
The Fitness for Human Habitation Bill is a Private Members' Bill, sponsored by The Labour Party's Karen Buck MP, which comes before parliament on Friday. It seeks to make sure homes are fit for human habitation at the start of a tenancy and all the way throughout. This means that if a landlord is failing to take action over poor conditions in a property, the renter has the right to take them to court. The Grenfell Tower fire is a harrowing example of the consequences of neglecting tenant’s voices and not addressing concerns: legislation like this will be a step towards making sure such a tragedy will never happen again.
Since my meeting with Shelter and recording this video, the Government have confirmed they will be supporting the Bill. Committing to back an opposition bill is unusual, but nonetheless very welcome (especially considering the Tories have previously blocked two attempts at passing such legislation, either by ‘talking it out’ or by voting against the relevant amendment: http://goo.gl/pvKfK3).
Ahead of the Bill, I surveyed renters in Norwich about the conditions of their property and the responsiveness of their landlord to problems that arise. Many constituents wrote back to me and outlined the struggles of getting their landlords to listen and act: one told me they’ve had no repairs or checks carried out in 14 years of renting their property, despite requesting them. Another recurring theme from the responses was how renters on rolling or otherwise insecure contracts felt powerless to persist with getting their landlord to carry out even the most essential repairs for fear of losing their accommodation.
Even more shocking was some of the photos of properties in the region Shelter showed me during our meeting last week. The living conditions they show are horrific. That was clear from looking at the photos, but when you hear the story behind them and about the individuals - often some of the most vulnerable in our society - who had to exist in these environments it’s devastating. To see some of these photos and the context behind them, take a look at my post here: https://www.facebook.com/labourclivelewis/posts/1601655806577887
I’ll be in parliament to vote for the Bill on Friday, even though this tends to be a day I spend in Norwich doing constituency visits and appointments. For all the above reasons, I think this is a hugely important piece of legislation. On top of that, the dozens of letters and emails I’ve had from constituents urging me to turn up and vote, and the survey responses I received, demonstrate this is clearly a matter many of you care strongly about too.
Hear more in THIS VIDEO I recorded on the day.