Campaign aims to find alternative method to reduce soaring benefit bill
Inside Housing campaigns against benefit cut plans
Inside Housing today launches a campaign to persuade the government to drop plans for housing benefit reform that could force thousands of people out of their homes.
The What’s the Benefit? campaign has already attracted widespread, high-profile support from housing providers, homelessness charities and Ken Livingstone, former mayor of London. It is launched as campaign groups warned that measures to cut the £21 billion housing benefit bill announced in the emergency Budget (see box) will put thousands of people across the UK at risk of homelessness, and that many areas will become unaffordable for those on low incomes.
The campaign has three main aims: a parliamentary inquiry into the potential impact of the changes; for 300 people to sign a petition voicing concern about the government’s plans; and for readers to devise an alternative solution that will be presented to government ahead of October’s comprehensive spending review.
Kay Boycott, director of policy and campaigns at charity Shelter, said: ‘If these cuts go ahead in their proposed form, we may see large-scale social and personal upheaval as people are forced to leave their homes and communities to migrate to areas with the cheapest housing.’
Research by the Chartered Institute of Housing this week found that some areas will become unaffordable much faster than others. For instance, it found private tenants receiving local housing allowance would be unable to afford a room in west Cumbria in less than two years. The study also found there would be no affordable rooms for LHA claimants in shared properties in 20 areas in the next decade.
Sam Lister, policy and practice officer at the CIH, suggested the government should pay LHA based on a proportion of rents, rather than 100 per cent. This would discourage landlords from raising rents, as councils would not be obliged to cover the rise.
This week, Bob Neill, an under-secretary of state at the Communities and Local Government department, acknowledged that caps to LHA would prevent people living ‘in some very expensive boroughs where a person who was in work on a low wage would have no hope of being able to live.’
What’s the Benefit?
Our backers so far
‘There are a range of alternative measures that could reduce costs.’
David Salusbury, chair, The National Landlords’ Association
‘They are cutting the incomes of the people already at the bottom.’
Sam Lister, policy and practice officer, Chartered Institute of Housing
‘Millions now face an even bigger challenge in keeping a roof over their heads.’
Kay Boycott, director of policy, Shelter
‘We recognise the need for reform of the housing benefit system: however, we must find a way of ensuring that that does not harm those who can least afford it.’
Helen Williams, director,National Housing Federation
What the Budget planned for housing benefit
- Limits of £250 for a one-bed property and £400 for four or more bedrooms.
- Local housing allowance rates set using the bottom 30 per cent of rents rather than the median from October 2011. It will be linked to the consumer price index, rather than the retail price index. There are 1 million LHA claimants in the UK
- Cutting housing benefit by 10 per cent for claimants on jobseekers allowance for more than a year.