Thursday, 02 July 2015

Renters cannot absorb housing benefit cut

Two thirds of people renting social housing would face difficulties if their income fell through cuts to housing benefit, a survey has found.

The study carried out by YouGov for the Trades Unions Congress and the Fabian Society found 49 per cent of people in private rented housing and 66 per cent of those in social housing would have problems if their income fell.

It found a drop of 10 per cent in income would cause “real difficulty” for 31 per cent of private renters and 44 per cent of social renters.

The government wants to slash the £21 billion housing benefit bill through a range of measures, including capping rents, altering how the amount that can be claimed is calculated, and cutting housing benefit by 10 per cent from people who have been claiming jobseekers’ allowance for more than a year.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: ‘Ministers want us to believe that housing benefit is going to what they would call work-shy scroungers, yet in reality only one claimant in eight is unemployed. The rest are mainly low-income working households, pensioners or the disabled.

‘Then they tell us that people can absorb a cut in their housing benefit. This poll shows that most cannot.’

Homelessness charity Crisis said the government is ‘peddling myths’ about housing benefit claimants.

Chief executive Leslie Morphy said: ‘We are concerned to hear those who are reliant on housing benefit being described as making a “lifestyle choice”. Nearly half of those on local housing allowance already face a shortfall between their benefit and their rent of an average of £23 per week, meaning tough choices between rent, food, heating or falling into a vicious spiral of debt.

‘More claimants of local housing allowance are actually in work than are unemployed whilst half are pensioners, disabled or have caring responsibilities.’

Meanwhile the Telegraph reports London mayor Boris Johnson’s comments on housing benefit last week may have jeopardised his bid to take control of the Homes and Communities Agency’s budget for the capital.

The mayor sparked a furious debate after he suggested cuts to housing benefit introduced by his own party could cause ‘Kosovo-style social cleansing’ in the capital. This follows a report by Inside Housing which showed that London councils were booking accommodation for homeless housing benefit claimants in towns as far away as Hastings.

The Telegraph reports today that Mr Johnson’s comments have angered senior government politicians so much they are considering rejecting his plans to take funding for social housing in London from the HCA in the upcoming Localism Bill.

Tensions continue to run high in Westminster over the housing benefit cuts, which will come into effect from next April. Liberal Democrat MP for Colchester Bob Russell is said to have stormed out of a meeting about the cuts with deputy prime minister Nick Clegg last week.

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