Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Shared room rate change risks homelessness

A group of charities has written to the government warning plans to extend shared room rate payments could increase homelessness.

The seventeen signatories argue that there is not enough shared accommodation available to meet the increasing demand that raising the age limit for payments from 25 to 35 will create.

The letter warns the 88,000 people affected by the move are at risk of homelessness.

It says: ‘In many areas of the country this type of shared accommodation simply doesn’t exist. Even where it does, claimants already struggle to find an affordable property, with the Department for Work and Pension’s most recent figures showing 70 per cent face a shortfall of an average of £27 per week.’

The change will double the number of people on the shared room rate, and make it even more difficult to find a suitable property, the organisations warn.

The letter was signed by the Big Issue Foundation, Broadway London, Business in the Community, Citizens Advice, the Chartered Institute of Housing, Crisis, The Cyrenians, Foyer Federation, Homeless Link, Housing Justice, the National Housing Federation, the Salvation Army, St Basils, St Mungos, Streetwise Opera, The Passage and Thames Reach.

It says: ‘The chancellor has talked about people making “lifestyle choices” but for this client group that couldn’t be further from the truth.

‘We are deeply concerned that these changes, which will see some people’s benefit entitlement literally halved, will have a real impact on levels of homelessness and will at the same time reduce our ability to solve it.’

The shared room rate is lower than all other housing benefit payments and is currently paid to claimants under 25. It is based on the amount of rent charged for a single room with shared use of the rest of a house.

The government expects raising the age at which the shared room rate can be paid will save £215 million by 2014/15.

Readers' comments (62)

  • Homelessness aside it will result in an increase in HMO properties at the same time the government is relaxing the planning regulations to make it easier for landlords not to get planning permission for them. There is also likely to be an increased workload for Housing Standards Enforcement action to make sure these properties are fit for tenants to live in. Whose side is the coalition on - seems they must have a lot of landords in their membership

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  • Melvin Bone

    This is an either or scenario. It will either lead to an increase in homelessness or an increase in HiMOs.

    I'd put money on more HiMOs.

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  • No its not an either/or situation as it will lead to both.

    I'd put money on more HMOs too, but i'd also put money on there not being enough new HMOs and as such, the result will be more HMOs but not enough so more HMOs AND more homelessness.

    But hey , theyre only single homeless and young people so who gives a flying fig!

    Oops, Freudian or irony?

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  • Oops again.

    Isnt it time this government changed the homelessness code of guidance. It already states that 16 and 17 year olds presnting means the homeless department have to speak with parents to see if they will have them back, so why not extend that to all under 35.

    That is the policy intention here after all.

    But that would cause national outrage wouldnt it.... interesting how this element of the inept HB and welfare changes hasnt though!!

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  • This is worrying. Councils already struggle to manage existing HMOs and are reluctant to take control of the worst through Management Orders introduced in the Housing Act 2004 (only a handful, if that, authorised nationally since they were introduced) . With the Comprehensive Spending Review they are unlikely to increase activity to police standards in HMOs. There will be more HMOs and more people needing this type of accommodation but how will standards be kept up?

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  • personally, I think the age increase is an appaling decision. There is little enough affordable housing as it is, but this condemns an entire generation to living in student squats until either such time as they have ben able to save enough money to buy a place of their own or gain access to social housing. Slum landlords will be laughing their way to the bank. Homeless applications will go through the roof and the numbers refused help will rocket.
    At 30+ the only option for somone on a low income should not be to live out of a suitcase with no belongings!
    I notice last night in watching the news though, the the House of Commons still indulge in luxuries like house of commons branded mineral water.

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  • I'm not sure the water they drink in the commons is at all relevant...

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  • ...

    .....It's not relevant but it does indicate the mentaility of the people making the decisions. When most organisations have to cut back the budgets they start with the luxuries first.......

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  • Water is hardly a luxury.

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  • Two points: if a person gets an ensuite room in a shared house and then puts a fridge and an assortment of plug in cooking appliances in their room, they could have a room in a shared house with all facilities to themselves. ( the Argos catalogue has a good range!) Secondly, if a person can find a flat where the rent is below that of the local shared room rate, will they be denied LHA because it is a flat even though it is under the shared room rate?

    Also, will single people under 35 on benefits be denied the opportunity to bid on council/housing association one bedroom flats via choice based letting schemes since they only qualify for shared room rate? This could see only older people in flats designed or designated for one person occupancy.

    Finally, there is still the incentive to get pregnant in order to qualify for a flat in either the social or private sector, which does appear to discriminate against the child free.

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