Posted by: Tom Lloyd09/07/2012
There’s always been a nagging suspicion that the reason the government is so keen to pay the housing element of universal credit to tenants is that it is too difficult to do otherwise.
If the minister for employment is to believed, however, this is not the case. In parliament last week Chris Grayling categorically stated that the IT system that underpins universal credit will not only be able to make payments of the housing element to tenants or landlords, but will be ready to go by October 2013.
Interesting though this little statement is, it doesn’t get us any closer to understanding why the government is so determined not to make housing welfare payments to landlords.
It has been presented with clear warnings that taking this route could damage the business case of housing associations, making it more expensive for them to borrow money and therefore build much-needed homes, but has offered little in the way of support beyond a few vague promises.
Private landlords have also expressed their concerns. A group has set up a petition warning many will stop housing tenants who are in receipt of benefits if payments go to the tenant.
It is hard to understand why the government has not backed down on this. It argues tenants should have control of their finances, but most landlords aren’t asking for payments to go to them automatically, they just want tenants to have the option of specifying that payments should go to the landlord. By not allowing this, the government is taking choice and control away from tenants, as well as risking increasing arrears and management costs for landlords.
These arguments have been made many times, so perhaps it is time for social landlords to accept the inevitable and get on with working out what to do about it. There might be time for one more attempt to change thinking though, maybe Mr Grayling’s answer providers a glimmer of hope.
We’ve had a few u-turns from the government recently, surely one more wouldn’t hurt.
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