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Legislation watch: What next for homelessness bills?

Sophie Boobis, Head of Policy at Homeless Link, looks at what the calling of the General Election means for the Bills and consultations that were working their way through parliament.

After a flurry of activity last week anything that didn’t make it through the wash-up period is lost and that could have a lot of impact on people at risk of, or experiencing homelessness.

Renters Reform Bill

First committed to by Theresa May back in 2019 the Renters Reform Bill has taken 5 years to get to a point where it was nearly ready to become law, and start the steps towards abolishing Section 21 ‘no fault evictions’. Unfortunately this  Bill wasn’t included in the wash-up period which means the Bill in it’s current form is no more, and any new proposals to ban Section 21will need to start from scratch. Given this was a Conservative Bill in the first place, and Labour have already pledged to scrap ‘no fault evictions’ if they’re elected it seems fairly likely that this will return in a new guise no matter the outcome of the election. Whilst the delay isn’t great news, a chance for a refresh is perhaps not a bad thing as the current Bill had got waylaid in amendments and changes that had weakened the tenancy protections in favour of private landlords. Homeless Link remains a member of the Renters Reform Coalition and will continue to support their work in putting pressure on whoever forms the new government to introduce strong tenants' rights, abolish ‘no fault evictions’ and reduce the role of the private rented sector in driving homelessness.

Criminal Justice Bill 

The wide-ranging Criminal Justice Bill introduced in November 2023 has been mired in controversy in relation to rough sleeping and begging. This is the Bill that set out replacement Vagrancy Act legislation and in doing so initially proposed to criminalise nuisance rough sleeping and begging. The language around rough sleeping was very problematic referencing stigmatising behaviour related to street homelessness, and risked reinforcing stereotypes. There had already been widespread lobbying activity, lead by Crisis, to try and remove this part of the Bill and a successful Conservative backbench rebellion had led to a toned down amendment although still with the risk of criminalising rough sleeping. However before we’ve had the chance to further argue for the total removal, the whole Criminal Justice Bill has also been lost when the General Election was called. If Labour win the election we aren’t expecting to see this to return in any form. If the Conservatives win we may see a version of the Criminal Justice Bill return but it is likely to look very different in relation to the rough sleeping, and we’ll be ready with sector partners to continue lobbying to stop criminalising people for being homeless.

Illegal Migration Act and Safety of Rwanda Act

Both these Acts had passed before parliament rose but with flights to Rwanda yet to happen, and the more significant parts of the Illegal Migration Act unenforced it looks like activity here has stalled. The IMA introduces a two tier asylum system which means people who arrived by irregular means and have no leave to enter or remain at the point they arrive in the UK would not be entitled to claim asylum and instead be deported to a ‘safe third country’: Rwanda. Without flights to Rwanda this is not in force. There was significant concern that the IMA would lead to an increase in homelessness as this population would be denied even the basic protections afforded under the asylum system. With no route to status people will be left with no right to work or rent and extremely vulnerable to destitution and exploitation. If the Conservatives win the election then we expect to see this re-started and significant noise around getting flights to Rwanda off the ground. Labour have confirmed that they would cancel the Rwanda policu, and in doing so the associated parts of the IMA.

Supported Accommodation regulation and licensing consultation 

The long awaited consultation into the regulation and licensing of supported accommodation under the Supported Accommodation (Regulatory Oversight) Act had not been published at the time the election was called. We’re waiting confirmation but it’s likely that it now won’t be out until July 5th at the earliest, and depending on whether a new Secretary of State or minister wants to review before publication may lead to further delays. In the meantime it’s probably safe to relax for a few weeks but after the election we’ll be back to consultation watch. The Homeless Link policy team are still primed and ready to go with our member engagement activity to ensure everyone who wants a say has an opportunity to make your voice heard. In the meantime applications for the advisory group remain open and you can find out more details here.

Channel website: http://www.homelesslink.org.uk

Original article link: https://homeless.org.uk/news/legislation-watch-what-next-for-homelessness-bills/

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