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City MP continues to fight for renters as government’s last minute U-turn on eviction ban causes confusion for tenants

Stephen Morgan MP has made renewed calls on government to protect renters from eviction as Ministers extend the ban on evictions by just one month

The Portsmouth South representative had originally called on Government back in March to ban evictions during the coronavirus crisis. Whilst Ministers caved following pressure, they are now threatening to take away this safety net in just one month.

In a cutting letter directly to the Housing Secretary, the city MP demanded an extension to the eviction ban along with a package of support for struggling tenants. This came as a survey by Generation Rent is released revealing that 45% of renters have lost income since March, and two thirds of renters who have lost income (68%) are struggling to pay their rent.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The Housing Secretary promised that no one would be forced to leave their homes amid this pandemic. Now, five months later, we see no package of support offered to tenants yet plans remain to reinstall evictions in one month.

We know that many hardworking Portsmouth families have been hit hard by the pandemic and, through no fault of their own, have found themselves in arrears. While I welcome government’s U-turn on the evictions ban extension today, the fact they have only extended it by a month just gives tenants longer to pack their bags.

The solution to this problem is more comprehensive support offered to struggling families at risk of homelessness and scrapping Section 21 Evictions.”

Mr Morgan’s demands, backed by frontbench colleagues, urge government to remove the benefits cap, administer Universal Credit more promptly and make more Local Housing Allowance available. The city MP has also raised with Ministers the impact on landlords after listening to concerns from the National Residential Landlords Association.

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Emergency action needed to protect renters say Labour

The official opposition are today setting out a five-point emergency action plan to prevent people from being forced from their homes as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Current measures set out by the Government in the Coronavirus Act fall well short of adequately protecting people from homelessness when they cannot pay their rent. Shelter reports an estimated 1.7 million people living in rented accommodation expect to lose their jobs in the next three months due to the coronavirus crisis.

Most people in rented accommodation have no savings and when the current freeze on evictions expires in June, an estimated 2.6 million people are likely to be in rent arrears, according to Citizens Advice.

Labour’s measures would use temporary legislation to protect people from bankruptcy and homelessness due to rent arrears, providing the kind of protection to people living in rented homes that is already in place for commercial tenants and owner-occupiers.

Labour’s five-point plan to protect people from eviction:

  1. Extend the temporary ban on evictions for six months or however long is needed to implement the legal changes below.
  2. Give residential tenants the same protections as commercial tenants, by protecting them from being made bankrupt by their landlords for non-payment of rent.
  3. Bring forward the government’s proposal to scrap Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions and outlaw evictions on the grounds of rent arrears if the arrears were accrued because of hardship caused by the coronavirus crisis.
  4. Once evictions are prevented, grant renters at least two years to pay back any arrears accrued during this period.
  5. Speed up and improve the provision of Universal Credit, as Labour recently called for, and consider a temporary increase to the Local Housing Allowance to help prevent risk of homelessness.

Responding to the plan, Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP said:

Labour wants to make sure people are not made homeless or at risk of homelessness as a result of the coronavirus.

That is why we have urged the government to make temporary changes to the Universal Credit system which would help more people, and to the system of government assistance under the furlough and self-employed support schemes and we want them to make further temporary changes to the laws on eviction to protect people who struggle with rent.

The five point plan announced today, if adopted by Government, will help protect Portsmouth people during this time of crisis”.

Thangam Debbonaire MP, Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, added:

“Current protections for people renting their homes are woefully inadequate. Unless the Government acts now, many thousands of tenants will be at risk of losing their homes.

The Government has paused evictions for three months and answered Labour’s call to increase the Local Housing Allowance. Both are welcome, but do not go far enough. It will take time for people to recover from this crisis and they need all the support we can give them to prevent what would be an unprecedented and devastating spike in homelessness.

In the long term we need to fix the housing crisis – with stronger rent regulations and much more affordable and social housing – so that everyone has a home that is safe, secure, environmentally sustainable, and that they can afford to live in. What we need right now is an emergency package to set us on that path.

Every Thursday we clap for key workers but many of them live in homes that are overcrowded, unsafe or expensive. When we emerge from this public health crisis, we cannot go back to business as usual.”

 

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City MP demands eviction ban for renters with coronavirus

Stephen Morgan MP has today called on the government to ban evictions for people who fall behind on their rent due to coronavirus. The city MP took forward constituent concerns by writing to the Communities Secretary tonight.

Labour is also publishing draft legislation that the official opposition is urging the government to adopt immediately.

The new law would mean any non-payment of rent due to coronavirus would not count as legal grounds for eviction. It would cover the more than 20 million people – eight and a half million households – who rent their homes from private, council or housing association landlords, including three million households with children.

The move would bar landlords from evicting tenants who are off work and not getting paid due to coronavirus, by changing the legal basis on which landlords can seize possession of a rented property to exclude arrears that have built up due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

It would initially cover any arrears that accumulate between 1 March 2020 and 1 September 2020, with the option to be extended as necessary.

In the letter to the Communities Secretary, the Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, Mr Morgan said that two thirds of private renters and more than eight in 10 social renters have no savings, according to government data.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“I have taken this action today immediately after hearing constituents’ concerns. It follows Labour’s call at the weekend for emergency financial protection for people affected by the coronavirus, including rent deferrals and mortgage holidays, higher statutory sick pay, and income protection for insecure, low-paid and self-employed workers, which I fully support.

No one should face eviction during a pandemic and the Government are in a position where they can ensure this does not happen.

It is a priority of mine at this time of national crisis to ensure Portsmouth people are safe and are protected. I hope Ministers take forward these positive proposals for those that rent their home”.

Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey MP added:

“The coronavirus pandemic requires a rapid response from the government to protect families.

Our current threadbare legal safety net means renters are vulnerable to eviction if they get ill and fall behind on their rent. The fear of being evicted may also mean workers are reluctant stay off work and self-isolate.

Our emergency legislation would protect renters from eviction and we urge the government to work with us to adopt it and implement it at the earliest opportunity.

This is an essential first step in public reassurance, giving people confidence they can follow official health advice in responding to coronavirus without putting their home at risk.”

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City MP Stephen Morgan has launched a Christmas appeal in support of St Swithun’s homeless mission

Reliant on donations from the public, the Southsea church is running a project to help vulnerable people by providing hot meals, support and essential goods.

Following a visit to the project a few weeks ago, the re-elected Portsmouth South MP and Shadow Communities Minister has done a call out on social media requesting constituents donate men’s gloves, warm socks and razors with shaving foam to help the homeless in Portsmouth this Christmas.

Residents, local groups and businesses are encouraged to drop off these items only to the MP’s constituency office this Friday or Monday. Speaking at the appeal,

Stephen Morgan MP said

“An estimated 280,000 homeless people will be sleeping rough or living in temporary housing and hostels on Christmas Day.

According to Shelter, that’s about one in every 200 of the total population. Behind these statistics are real people and this crisis should shame us all.

As Portsmouth South’s MP, I will continue to press the new government to confront this huge challenge and do something radical to implement.

In Southsea, St Swithun’s tireless work has been going under the radar, with volunteers donating hundreds of hours helping those in need. I urge constituents to do their bit by giving a little and helping this appeal this Christmas”.

The office is open for donations Friday and Monday 9-5pm at 72 Albert Road, Southsea PO5 2SL

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“Almost half of all women sent to prison are now homeless” – City MP vows to tackle female re-offending 

During questions in the House of Commons today, Stephen Morgan MP grilled a Government Minister over the lack of funding set aside for the rehabilitation of female offenders and what this means for homelessness.

The Portsmouth South representative subsequently applied further pressure to the link between the Government’s failure and the rising rate of homelessness amongst female offenders.

Mr Morgan said:

“We know that half of all women sent to prison are now homeless, an increase on the previous few years. I find this utterly shocking.

Reoffending costs the British tax payer £18 billion a year and the current system is clearly failing to get offenders back on their feet, preventing them from contributing to society.

The solution to this problem is to invest in alternatives to ineffective short-term prison sentences that are proven to increase reoffending and also to properly fund women’s centers. I am delighted that both notions are Labour party policy.

Under the current system everyone loses out, victims, offenders and the tax payer. This is counterproductive.”

Members of the Government’s own Advisory Board on Female Offenders have expressed their frustration at the limited funding, stating that at least £20m is required annually for community provision. However, the Government only provided a one-off two-year grant of £5m to fund the strategy.

Alongside, supporting Labour party policy to immediately provide funds to women’s centres, give £20 million to women’s justice campaigners and ruling out unjustified short sentences, Stephen Morgan MP been conducting his own work on this matter.

The Portsmouth South MP is hosting a parliamentary event in November alongside Gethin Jones from Unlocking Potential with senior representatives from the Ministry of Justice, private sector, Non-Government Organisations, and senior prison governors. The event seeks to change the narrative of criminal justice to focus more on rehabilitation and inclusive policy towards offenders.

On this action, Mr Morgan said:

Following discussions with offenders right’s organisation, Unlocking Potential I am delighted that next month I will be hosting an event that will help shift the narrative of criminal justice towards prevention and rehabilitation as opposed to incarceration and indifference.

The current system is failing, and we must work to rectify these inadequacies, I will not be wasting any time in engaging with people from all parties and perspectives so that we can get a criminal justice system that is better for offenders, taxpayers and reduces the number of victims.”

Mr Morgan has committed to continuing his campaign for a better-quality criminal justice system and has expressed that he will continue to urge the Government to match Labour’s commitments.

 

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“A stain on our society” City MP brands new figures showing 80% rise in homeless children

New national analysis on the number of children in temporary accommodation has highlighted the complete failure of the Tory Government to deal with this important issue despite the Conservatives saying their success will be judged by how ‘we care for the weakest and most vulnerable at home.’

Figures buried in the website of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government show that since the Tories took office the number of children in temporary accommodation accepted by local authorities has increased by 80%.

The latest figures also reveal that the number of households in temporary accommodation has increased by 74% from 2010 to 2018.

City MP Stephen Morgan has contacted the Local Authority in a bid to find out exactly how many have been affected in his patch.

Mr Morgan, commenting on these figures, said:

“When this Conservative Government ends, the national shame of rising homelessness will be on its political tombstone.

Homelessness fell at an unprecedented rate under Labour, but under the Tories even more children will be homeless this Christmas.

This is a direct result of Conservative decisions to slash investment for affordable homes, cut back housing benefit, reduce funding for homelessness services, and deny protection to private renters.

I hope the city council shares with me the detailed city-wide data so that we can see the extent of the problem locally and draw up plans to hold the Government to account over their neglect.

The fact that we have homeless children is stain on our society. It must be addressed.”

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“These young activists have shown true Pompey spirit by being the change they want to see in the community” – City MP joins young people at LifeHouse support centre

In support of a set of Southsea schoolchildren doing their best to improve their local community, Stephen Morgan MP has visited LifeHouse on Albert Road. 

The three children, Eva, Marley and Ava, all aged 11, have spent time preparing care packages for service users at the facility and were joined by the city MP while meeting those at LifeHouse.

Mr Morgan said:

“One of the things that I am most proud about the city I grew up in is the sense of community and pride in Portsmouth. These young activists have exemplified the ethos of our city by being the change they want to see and reaching out to community members who need our support.

LifeHouse does vital work in our community by providing a resource, support centre and kitchen for those who need it and I am grateful to young people Eva, Ava and Marley for showing such initiative and support for the organisation.”

The schoolchildren, who all attend schools in Southsea, have for some time been thinking about how to do their bit for the local community and cited their distress at seeing local Portsmouth people in need as the motivation for their activism.

Mr Morgan said:

“At a time when there are double the number of rough sleepers than there were in 2010 and 2017 saw a 15% rise on the previous year – community-based initiatives are integral to supporting the members of our community that need it.

These young people are doing their bit in Portsmouth, but it is up to the Government to address these major societal inequalities.

That is why I will continue to lobby the Government to ensure that local authorities receive the funding they need to provide vital services and to highlight their services failings when it comes to community support.”

Eva said:

“Just because someone is homeless doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings. Anyone could become homeless for any reason. We don’t need to be negative and judge people because of what they look like”

Ava said:

“I think there are a lot of homeless people here in Portsmouth and not everyone pays attention to them.”

Marley added:

“We want to raise awareness and encourage other people to help. Even though we are children doesn’t mean we don’t have a voice and don’t have anything to say.”