Robert Jenrick pledges to build thousands of homes to tackle rough sleeping

31 May 2020, 17:45

The minister was speaking at the daily coronavirus press briefing
The minister was speaking at the daily coronavirus press briefing. Picture: PA

By Matt Drake

Thousands of houses will be built to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping, the Government has announced.

At least 6,000 homes will be made available for rough sleepers and 3,300 of those will be build in the next 12 months, according to Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick.

Announcing plans to help rough sleepers, Mr Jenrick said: "Some people will need help to return to the private rental sector, but others will need accommodation to be provided so that they can start to rebuild their lives.

"That's why 6,000 new supported homes will be made available for rough sleepers, providing safe accommodation for people we've helped off the streets during the pandemic.

"The Government is backing this effort with £433 million to fast track the safe accommodation desperately needed to ensure as few rough sleepers as possible return to the streets.

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"3,300 of these new homes will become available in the next 12 months, and £160 million will be spent this year to deliver that."

The minister was speaking at the daily coronavirus press briefing.

He said that 90% of rough sleepers were offered accommodation during the pandemic and they hope to limit the numbers returning to the street.

Mr Jenrick added that he regards homelessness as a health issue, saying: "But rough sleeping is as much a health issue, as it is a housing issue. It's a crisis of addiction and mental health as well.

"So we will provide specialist support staff for rough sleepers in this new accommodation to ensure that they can continue to receive the health support that they will need to transform their lives and fulfil their potential."

It comes as the secretary comes under scrutiny after allegations he intervened in a controversial London planning decision that could have saved a Conservative Party donor tens of millions.

Mr Jenrick was asked during the press briefing for his response to reports that he had given the green light to a £1 billion housing development weeks after a Tory party fundraising dinner where he sat at the same table as the developer.

He said: "We want to build more homes in this country. We have a housing crisis, we need to get the country building. That's absolutely at the heart of the mission of this Government and I think when we come out of this pandemic it will be even more true that we want to see decent, affordable homes in all parts of the country and that is what I want to do as Housing Secretary.

"In respect to the planning application that I think you're referring to, that was judged on the merits.

"It would actually have allowed hundreds of affordable homes to be provided in one of London's most deprived boroughs which would've been extremely valuable.

"There was no bias in that decision but to ensure complete fairness and no inference of that whatsoever we offered to re-determine the decision in the usual way and the other parties to the application all agreed to do that and so I think that was the right way to move forwards."