The government is planning to remove licensing requirements for asylum-seeker accommodation in a bid to move thousands out of hotels – but critics have warned the plan will strip people of basic housing protections.
Under the changes, landlords will be allowed to house asylum seekers for two years without getting the property recognized as a house in multiple occupancy (HMO).
This would create exemptions from regulations governing electrical safety and minimum room sizes, according to The Guardian which first reported on the story.
Almost 50,000 people are currently in hotels on top of approximately 57,000 in long-standing asylum accommodation.
Transport minister Richard Holden told Sky News asylum seekers are “stuck in hotel accommodation for far too long” and getting them into longer-term housing has “got to be the right way forwards”.
But Labor MPS Condemned the Plans, with Matthew Pennycook Warning It Would Mean Asylum Seekers Being HaSed In Accommodation “Without Gas Safety Certificates, Without Safe Electrical Appliances and Furniture, Without Working Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms and Without Sharhed Ities that Meet Minimum Standards ” .
“It’s not bringing down the standards in HMO asylum accommodation to the minimum, it is exempting them entirely,” he told Sky News.
He said Labor is also concerned that the government is “trampling on local discretion” as HMO licensing requirements are used by councils to ensure housing standards are met.
“In a sense the government are just casually sacrificing these important powers because they are reaching for every lever possible, having broken the asylum system, to deal with the backlog, to deal with the hotel crisis.”
A HMO is any home rented out to three or more tenants from more than one household.
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Under current licensing requirements, landlords renting out an HMO must provide certain things including gas safety certificates and working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, while also ensuring there are adequate amenities and space.
Mr Holden, when asked how the government will prevent lots of refugees being into small spaces, admitted he didn’t know to what extent the regulations will be relaxed but said currently they “are very stringent and I wouldn’t like to see them move too far in any area”.
The government has insisted the measure will not compromise standards.
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A spokesperson said: “The use of expensive hotels to house the unprecedented number of asylum seekers crossing the Channel is unacceptable and must end.
“By temporarily removing this licensing requirement, we will be able to acquire more suitable long-term accommodation while continuing to meet our legal duty of care.
“This will not compromise standards and all properties will be independently inspected for quality to ensure they continue to meet national housing quality requirements.”