Rachael Maskell – 2022 Speech at the Sir David Amess Summer Adjournment Debate

The speech made by Rachael Maskell, the Labour MP for York Central, in the House of Commons on 21 July 2022.

I, too, wish to pay tribute to Sir David Amess and the indelible mark he left on this place. His family called for a legacy of kindness and love across Parliament. I think we still have some way to go on that journey, but he was never afraid to speak truth to power, which I trust I will do today. It is an honour to follow the hon. Member for Mid Sussex (Mims Davies). I, too, will be picking up on the issue of housing in my speech.

Normally, we enter the summer with relief, but this year it is different. We have chaos across Government and across the country. The scale and depth of the multiple crises is weighing heavy on my constituents: it is taking five years to see an NHS dentist; GPs are under unbelievable stress and struggling with demand, with appointments now being issued for 16 August, with nothing before; we have the elective surgery backlog; we have the mental health crisis— I do not know where to begin there—covid is, yet again, dangerously on the rise; children’s social care is unable to meet demand; children are in dilapidated schools; we have the courts backlog; we have the passport backlog; we have the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency backlog; we have the visa backlog; we have a climate crisis; we have an economic crisis of inflation at 9.4% today; and we have a cost of living crisis. After 12 years, this is what the Tories have given our country. We are in meltdown, not just because of the temperature, but because of the temperature of what is coming out of the policies of this Government. It is left to us as constituency MPs to pick up the pieces.

Today, however, I want to focus on the biggest crisis facing York: the housing crisis. Having spent weeks on the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill Committee, it is clear that the Government are yet to get to grips with the housing crisis and the solutions that are needed. My amendments have focused on addressing the lack of community voice in planning and matching need to what is being delivered in housing. It does a disservice for Government because, as they set these targets, if they are building not to need but to the market, they are unable to deliver also.

My city should be the very best place to live. We know its assets. People visit it and it is a wonderful city, with amazing people living there, but it is rapidly turning into a complete nightmare. The Airbnb market is surging in York. Short-term holiday lets are moving up at a rapid pace. Just a couple of weeks ago, we had 1,999; today we have 2,068. The number is rising rapidly as people are seeing the opportunity to make money out of my city. We have a rise in second homes and empty homes, but I wish to focus on the issue of Airbnbs and what is happening across the housing economy. We are seeing an extraction economy, instead of an investment economy—housing, money and opportunity extracted from my constituents, instead of investment in housing, people and communities for the long term.

This issue needs to be addressed urgently. It is disrupting the economy. We are unable to recruit to the care sector or to local jobs. It is undermining local businesses, such as B&Bs and guest houses. It is having a significant economic impact, but it is also hollowing out rural communities. Some places have only one place to let, but in York the Airbnb and short-term holiday lets market is turning family streets into party streets, and I can tell the House that it is not pleasant when there is a hen do next door every single weekend.

Section 21 notices are being issued at such an alarming rate that my constituents are being forced out of the city because there is nowhere else for them to live. Instead of getting an average—and it is high—£945 per calendar month for renting a property, landlords can make £700 over a weekend. Cash buyers, mainly from London and the south-east, are buying up swathes of housing in York in order to make money, but not to provide the housing that we desperately need. We have a real crisis in social housing and affordable housing. Couples who have saved for their first deposit are not getting the opportunity to buy because cash buyers are putting down up to £70,000 in addition for each property. The York Central development, which should be transformative for my city, risks becoming Airbnb central, with 2,500 units being built but probably not lived in by people from my local community.

We need the Government to get a grip. I will be bringing forward a Bill in December, and I trust that the Government will get behind it, because we need to license these properties and ensure that we have local homes for local people.