Time to deal with scandal

It’s good news that the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Select Committee have decided to conduct an inquiry into exempt accommodation and even better they’ve come to Birmingham to take evidence.

I’ve been warning about exempt accommodation for a long time. It’s an issue which this newspaper has campaigned on and where virtually every Birmingham Member of Parliament has called for some sort of action.

It’s largely provided by private landlords at taxpayer’s expense but in too many communities, it leads to family homes being converted into ‘mini hostels’ as the landlords chase huge profits.

If properly commissioned, by local authorities, it can be a good idea and there are some excellent organisations and landlords out there but when it’s just about money, it often leads to intolerable anti-social behaviour and substandard accommodation.

I welcome the government’s belated recognition of the problem and their recent pilot involving Birmingham City Council but we need them to go much further.

Ministers refused to give time to my parliamentary bill which would have placed restrictions on the number of ‘hostels’ per neighbourhood; demanded background checks on those who own and manage such places; and an assessment of an individual’s suitability before being placed in an exempt establishment.

During last week’s committee hearing, in Birmingham, we heard evidence from people forced to live in this type of accommodation. There were harrowing tales.

Exempt accommodation is costing the taxpayer a small fortune. It’s proved a very ineffective way to tackle homelessness or help vulnerable people but has provided a very lucrative market for unscrupulous landlords.

I hope the minister will treat this select committee report seriously and start dealing with this terrible scandal.

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