Tories Plans to Remove Basic Housing Protections for Asylum Seekers
The government is paving the way for slum landlords by removing essential housing protections. Under new rules aimed at relocating tens of thousands of asylum seekers from hotels to the private rented sector, landlords would be exempted from regulations encompassing electrical safety and minimum room sizes.
Campaigners are sounding the alarm, cautioning that the government’s actions could result in people being crammed into cramped spaces, exacerbating the already dire crisis in asylum seeker accommodation.
Ministers, led by Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Housing Secretary Michael Gove, are pushing for the implementation of these changes. MPs are poised to vote on the plans imminently, as the government races to alleviate the burden of temporary housing in hotels. Astonishingly, Gove intends to present these proposals to the Commons with little fanfare, overshadowed by the publication of his bill seeking to prevent landlords from evicting tenants without just cause.
It’s just another failure by Westminster to find a way forward in a long line of failures when it comes to immigration, refugees and asylum seekers.
The staggering backlog in the asylum processing system has led to over 50,000 asylum seekers being housed in hotels nationwide, costing a staggering £6 million per day. Meanwhile, the abysmal conditions in temporary accommodations have resulted in the outbreak of highly contagious diseases like diphtheria. The healthcare community and migration campaigners are deeply concerned by these makeshift solutions, while Conservative MPs argue that they place undue strain on local communities and services.
Braverman has even floated the idea of housing asylum seekers on decommissioned cruise ships, barges, and ferries in an attempt to address the crisis. In parallel, PM Rishi Sunak is capitalizing on a Council of Europe meeting in Finland to lobby his European counterparts, seeking to curtail the European Court of Human Rights’ ability to impede asylum seeker deportations.
Ministers hope that lifting housing regulations for private landlords can expedite the process of transferring individuals away from hotels. However, removing these regulations means landlords responsible for asylum seekers—many of whom contract large service companies like Serco—will no longer be obliged to provide gas or electrical safety certificates before occupancy.
They will no longer be required to furnish proof of safe and functional electrical appliances and furniture upon request. Furthermore, they will be exempt from complying with standards dictating minimum room sizes, which mandate at least 4.6 square meters for a room accommodating an individual aged under 10 and a minimum of 6.5 square meters for those aged 10 or above.
Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Shelter, aptly remarked, “Licensing for HMOs was implemented to ensure people’s safety. By discarding these vital protections in order to manipulate minimum space standards, the government is needlessly exposing thousands of individuals, including vulnerable children and older adults, to significant risks.”
Unleashing the Predators
This move will also push up private renting prices and reduce stock in an already depleted market. This will inevitably roll over to the housing market with landlords that can see an easy pound to be made buying up cheaper housing while pushing house prices up, all feeding the banks of course, while workers find it harder and harder to find affordable accommodation of any type.
Braverman’s speech at the National Conservatism conference, also advocated for reduced migration, defying pressure from some of her cabinet colleagues who advocate for increased immigration to stimulate the economy. Backing the Home Secretary, Gove addressed the same conference, citing migration as a pivotal factor behind the UK’s housing crisis, despite evidence suggesting that his own diluted housing targets will drive housebuilding to its lowest level in decades all the ingredients for a perfect storm.
The changes explained
What is a HMO?
A house in multiple occupation is any home rented out to three or more tenants from more than one household. This applies whether it is a house or a block of flats, and requires landlords to register with their local council.
What are the licensing requirements? Landlords renting out an HMO must provide:
- A gas safety certificate every year.
- Working smoke alarms for every inhabited storey.
- If requested, a declaration that electrical appliances and furniture are safe.
- Written statement of the terms of occupancy to tenants.
- A carbon monoxide alarm in every inhabited room with a gas or oil heater.
- A declaration from a qualified electrician that electrical fittings are safe.
- Bedrooms that are at least:
– 6.51 sq metres for a room used by one person aged 10 or over.
– 10.22 sq metres for a room used by two persons aged 10 years or over.
– 4.64 sq metres for a room used by one person aged under 10 years.
What will the new rules mean? The government will still have some oversight of landlords who rent to asylum seekers, claiming civil servants will sign off on their contracts. But campaigners say the Home Office has already proved it is unable to provide safe and sanitary asylum accommodation, after outbreaks of diphtheria at hotels and the Manston holding facility in Kent.