Wednesday, 04 May 2016

Young homeless shut out of London's rented sector

Welfare reforms mean only 5.5 per cent of shared properties in London are now affordable for under 35s on housing benefit, a study has found.

Charity Homeless Link examined 55,537 property listings to assess the impact of the government’s decision to raise the age threshold for the shared accommodation rate from 25 to 35.

It found only 5.5 per cent of the properties are affordable, and that demand for the few available rooms is increasing, with 12,000 extra people looking for accommodation following the change to the SAR rules.

The change was brought in at the start of 2012, and means single people under the age of 35 can only claim housing benefit to cover the cost of a room in a shared property rather than a whole house or flat. Previously the restriction only applied to 18- to 25-year-olds.

Homeless Link said the findings of its research suggest welfare reform is adding to London’s ‘already severe housing crisis’.

The charity is calling for housing benefit rates to be adjusted to reflect the true cost of renting in London. It argues 30 per cent of properties should be accessible to people on benefits, because benefit payments for private tenants are set at the thirtieth percentile of local rents.

Rick Henderson, chief executive of Homeless Link, said: ‘The bottom line is that the housing crisis must be fixed and the dysfunctionality of the housing market needs to be addressed. In the short-term, government must make in-roads by ensuring that more properties are affordable and encouraging landlords to open their doors to those on benefits.’

Less than 1 per cent of the listings Homeless Link looked at said the landlord would accept tenants on benefits.

The government announced this week that it is giving just over £1 million to Crisis, the charity for single homeless people, to support projects helping vulnerable people find homes in the private rented sector.

The bulk of this funding - £800,000 – will be spent supporting eight projects specifically intended to help under 35s find rooms in shared properties. The remaining £230,000 will be spent supporting existing projects that help people find private rented sector properties.

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