Saturday, 10 October 2015

Capital’s boroughs prepare for lack of affordable private rented homes

Councils to move LHA claimants out of London

Councils in London are arranging to move local housing allowance claimants into accommodation as far away as Hastings, following cuts to housing benefit confirmed in the comprehensive spending review.

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London Councils revealed this week at a meeting of the work and pensions select committee that local authorities in central London have been block-booking private rented accommodation and bed and breakfast rooms in towns across the south of England.

The cuts to housing benefit, first announced in June’s emergency Budget, are predicted to hit private tenants in London hardest when they come into effect in April 2011. They include a cap on the amount of housing benefit payable per bedroom, and a move to calculating LHA based on the 30th percentile of rents in an area.

Nigel Minto, head of sustainable communities at London Councils, said: ‘Some central London boroughs have been doing block bookings in outer London because they know that they will not have the accommodation in the private sector.’

Mr Minto said the boroughs were booking rooms in towns such as Hastings, Watford, Slough, Reading and Luton because the rents in those areas are much lower than the average rates charged by central London landlords.

He said the councils were also starting to view bed and breakfast accommodation - normally used for short emergency stays - as a longer term solution to households presenting as homeless in their areas.

Families with children would be forced to remove them from school, and those claiming housing benefit as an in-work benefit would lose their jobs as a result of moving so far away, Mr Minto warned.

Research by London Councils has also found that landlords would not drop their rents if their tenants’ housing benefit is cut.

Alex Fenton, research associate at the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research, said he thought it was unlikely that rents in expensive inner-city areas would drop as a result of the cuts to housing benefit payments.

Inside Housing’s What’s the Benefit? campaign calls for fairer reforms to housing benefit. A petition expressing concerns about the government’s reforms had reached 1,418 signatures at the time of going to press

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