Jeremy Corbyn says Labour would purchase 8,000 homes 'immediately' in major new policy to tackle homelessness

Government data released last week detailed how the number of people sleeping rough in England has hit a record high – after a 73 per cent increase over the last three years

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Sunday 28 January 2018 11:42 GMT
Jeremy Corbyn would buy 8,000 homes for homeless people 'immediately'

Jeremy Corbyn has announced that a Labour government would immediately purchase 8,000 homes for rough sleepers in an effort to combat rising homelessness levels in England.

The Labour leader also said he would give new powers to local authorities in order to seize properties that are “deliberately” kept empty as he hit out at luxury tower blocks sold off to overseas investors.

The commitment follows officials government data, released last week, detailing how the number of people sleeping rough in England has hit a record high – after a 73 per cent increase over the last three years.

The new information showed that on any given night in autumn last year, 4,751 people were recorded sleeping on the streets, a figure that has more than doubled since 2010.

Describing homelessness as “disgraceful” and “wholly unnecessary” on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Corbyn said a Labour government would “immediately purchase 8,000 properties across the country to give immediate housing to those people who are currently homeless”.

He continued: “And at the same time, require local authorities to build far more.

“We would give local authorities the power to take over deliberately kept vacant properties. Where you have in the middle of an area where there is a lot of housing stress, many people rough sleeping, you get some luxury, glossy, glistening block built, sold off plan to overseas investors.”

The commitment to purchase 8,000 homes doubles the previous commitment from the party. At the 2017 general election, the Labour manifesto said: “You can’t help people who are homeless if you won’t provide the homes so we’ll transform our capacity to get people off the streets for good by making available 4,000 new homes for people with a history of rough sleeping.”

Also addressing the issue of homelessness on the same programme, David Lidington, the newly-appointed cabinet secretary, said: “Homelessness has gone up for a number of different reasons. Part of it is to do with the complexity of the people who often end up sleeping rough.

“That’s why the Government has set up a very ambitious target – we have pledged to half rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminate it by 2027.”

John Healey, the shadow housing minister, said that the rising numbers of people sleeping on the streets “shames us all”. He added: “There can be no excuses – we can end it and we must end it.

“Under the last Labour government, years of sustained action cut rough sleeping by three-quarters, but it has more than doubled since 2010.

“If Theresa May is serious about fixing our rough sleeping crisis, she should back Labour’s plans to make more homes available for the homeless.”

The number of rough sleepers increased by 15 per cent in just one year, up 617 since autumn 2016. London represented nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of all rough sleepers in England, at 1,140 on any given night – up from 23 per cent the previous year.

A fifth of those sleeping rough last year were non-UK nationals, while 14 per cent were women and 8 per cent were under 25-years-old, the figures show.

Crisis, the national charity for homeless people, urged that the true number of rough sleepers was far greater after its own research found that more than 8,000 people were currently sleeping rough across England.

This is on top of an additional 9,000 homeless people sleeping in tents, cars, trains and buses, the charity warned.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in