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The government's consultation paper Access to Local Authority and Housing Association Tenancies has been described ...
The government's consultation paper Access to Local Authority and Housing Association Tenancies has been described in the House of Lords as 'chilling' (Hansard 12 April col 1506).

The attack on the government's green paper was led by Baroness Hollis of Heigham, who chaired Norwich city's housing committee through the 1970s. She called on the DoE not to proceed with the proposals.

Lady Hollis said there were new pressures since the 1970s. Homelessness has come for some who have been discharged from long-stay hospitals, there has been a growing problem of domestic violence and homeless families have been evicted from the private rented sector.

The proposals say and do nothing about why people are homeless. 'It merely cuts the help which they will get. It makes rationing more stringent rather reducing the need for rationing in the first place.

'Under these proposals, local authorities will aid not those who will become homeless in order to prevent it, but only those who are already roofless. As the Victorians said, it puts an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff when what is needed is a fence at the top.'

Baroness Hamwee called on the government to listen to the consultation and act accordingly.

Further, they should address the issue of supply: 'The question of priority, of how to meet demand, would not be an issue if sufficient affordable accommodation were available.

'It is well known that central government, with their substantial housing stock, are one of the worst offenders in leaving housing vacant.'

She said that the private sector is fragile. 'I do not believe that we should be building a policy on a sector whose performance is not proven.'

Baroness Hamwee concluded: 'The government seek to justify their proposals by claiming that homeless people are jumping the queue and being housed ahead of families on the waiting list who are in worse conditions. It ill becomes the government to blame the queuers; they should shorten the queue.'

The government has much to reflect on, under secretary of state at the department of the environment The Earl of Arran declared at the end of the debate.

But much of the opposition to its proposals had been misplaced, he said.

'The government are clear that the prime responsibility for establishing and maintaining a home rests with the individual or family concerned. The role of the state is to assist in this, not to lead.'

And it is from this objective that there follows the need to alter the present homelessness legislation so that it ceases to be a fast track into council and housing association tenancies.

He said that the government was not turning its back on homeless people. 'By proposing to break the existing link between assisting homeless people and the allocation of tenancies for life, we are proposing a system that is fairer for everyone.'

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