Thursday, 05 March 2015

DWP to consult on social homes under-occupation

The government has said that it ‘does not expect’ changes to the shared accommodation rate to be applied to social housing tenants.

Since the beginning of January, single people aged between 25 and 34 renting in the private sector have only been able to claim housing benefit based on the cost of a room in shared house, rather than a modest one bed flat. This restriction previously applied to all single people under 25-years-old.

The change means people are potentially receiving reduced benefits even if they are not living in shared accommodation.

Confusion has surrounded how single people in the social rented sector will be affected by similar changes which are scheduled to be brought in next year.

An impact assessment from October 2011 looking at ‘size criteria’ for social tenants says: ‘From 1 April 2013 it is intended to introduce size criteria for new and existing working-age housing benefit claimants living in the social rented sector.

‘The size criteria will replicate the size criteria that apply to housing benefit claimants in the private rented sector and whose claims are assessed using the local housing allowance rules.

‘The applicable maximum rent will be reduced by a national percentage rate depending on how many bedrooms the household is considered not to require.’

Some have claimed that this means a single person in a 1-bed social flat will be treated the same as a single person in a 1-bed private flat.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: ‘We will base under-occupation in the social rented sector on the size criteria used in the private sector. We are looking at how this will work in practice and will consult with local authority associations on draft regulations shortly.

‘As with now, we do not expect the shared accommodation rate to apply to any tenants living in the social rented sector.’

Readers' comments (10)

  • Joe Halewood

    "We do not expect!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

    So DWP ARE planning sneaking this SAR change in by the backdoor!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • If young people (reliant on benefits) should be sharing houses, in order to restore fairness to the system, which is the main argument behind SAR, and one that I agree with, then surely they have to be consistent with this rule and apply it to those in the private AND social sector.

    Applying the SAR to the social sector would help the introduction of affordable rent by encouraging people to move.

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  • The condems have already passed leglislation to punish
    council tenants for having extra space in their homes
    ie.the bedroom tax /underoccupation penalty , which
    is punishing council tenants TWICE OVER for having
    these extra rooms ,by cutting housing benefit by £500 million pa
    and then punishing these tenants a second time by cutting
    council tax benefit by £490 million pa for this exact same reason.....
    .......meaning these tenants are facing a collassal shortfall of
    £1 Billion pa, which they will have to pay themselves out of
    their other benefits which are also being reduced.

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  • As a fully grown man under the age of 35 I am pretty sure I require a bedroom.

    Even children require bedrooms.

    Perhaps the housing associations can knock rooms through to create one big bedsit rather than a 1 bedroom flat.

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  • aaa

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  • For many ex-affenders leaving prison doors behind opens up a whole new set of problems. A criminal record has always been barrier to even getting an interview,let alone securing a position.And with little chance of employment the temptation to return to crime can be too strong to resist. But a socaol enterprise with pioneering approach is offering ex-offenders the opportunity to renovate derelict properties and in doing so gain the skilss and experience they need to rebuild their lives.

    I see the housing/rise in rent dilemma as symptom of many things wrong

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  • Joe Halewood

    Confusion? The debate still goes on.

    I raised the issue initially as the impact assessment on the under-occupation (aka the bedroom tax) HB changes to social housing due in April 2013 says that these will REPLICATE to social housing how LHA now works in the private rented sector.

    As LHA in the PRS includes the shared accommodation rate (SAR) to single persons under 35, I raise the issue as to whether the SAR would apply to social housing through the bedroom tax changes.

    So far, the 'great and the good' of housing have said the DWP have told them verbally that it wont. They also cite it wont apply as it says so in writing under the SAR guidance. Yet this is not the issue.

    The issue is whether the SAR will apply through the backdoor and via the bedroom tax changes.

    All DWP have to do is put these verbal assurances in writing - yet they have not done so.

    The latest contempt for my argument from the great and the good is that the SAR is not even part of the LHA regulations. Perhaps these anonymous persons should read the definitiion of LHA to be found on the directgov website.

    “(1) If you are renting a property or room from a private landlord the Local Housing Allowance is used to work out how much Housing Benefit you get.
    (2) The amount of Housing Benefit you get will depend on where you live and who lives with you.
    (3) Local Housing Allowance rates are set for different types of accommodation in each area.
    (4) The rates range from a single room in a shared house, up to properties with four bedrooms"

    The definition runs to (4) sentences which I have adapted above.

    Sentence (1) becomes redundant when the bedroom tax applies to social housing which we know to be fact will happen in April 2013. As such the revised definition in April 2013 becomes sentences (2) through (4).

    There is and can be no doubt that sentence (4) when it says " ...from a single room in a shared house..." means the SAR and that SAR is currently an integral part of LHA and not merely an addition.

    If this government doesnt want to negate all housing options fror the under 35s in 2013 all it has to do is a simple written confirmation that SAR wont apply to social housing through the bedroom tax. If it doesnt do that we MUST assume it will apply.

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  • In practice - since the 1978 allocation process changed to needs based, only lone parents will have been allocated social housing. Thus it is unlikely in most areas that there will be any single persons below age 35 in one or more bedroom accomodation in social sector. Given that new social tenants are being charged rents at 80% of a commercial rent, the SAR could indeed affect any such singletons aged up to 34, as their HB would be based on LHA bedroom criteria.

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  • SRS under occupation is being addressed simply to encourage a recycling of the scarce resource - moreover in the context of SRS being seen as a temporary safety net, rather than a lifelong crutch.

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  • Again as always so many people fail to see the elephant in the room. this discussion centres around the detail, 'should young council tenants come under this rule or that. No this country is still very rich, only thing is that we have decided to prop up banks who robbed us all in the normal course of there operation, then robbed us again when they failed. Why ever was it right in a capitalist democracy to support a private industry that has wantonly, and with knowledge caused so much harm. All this harm to our young people just to save 200 million by 2013. A drop in the ocean and pointless stupidity. The point is that we could solve many of our housing and employment problems if we decided to produce a new generation of council accommodation. Accommodation at a price that young people can afford. Prices that mean they can afford to pay, even in low paid employment. Accommodation that allow young people to have dignity, Safety, Privacy. You know, the kind of thing that WE all expect.

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