Tag Archives: Local Housing Allowance

Chaos In Supported Housing: Almost Half A Million Homes Under Threat As Ministers Dither

George-Osborne Social housing providers are warning that up to 440,000 homes are potentially at risk due to George Osborne’s plans to slash benefits intended to pay the rent of those living in supported housing.

In the Autumn Statement the Chancellor  announced that Housing Benefit for tenants living in socially managed housing would be capped at the same level as payments for those renting privately.  This cap is to include those living in some form of supported accommodation where high rents are charged to cover the additional costs of providing care or supervision.  With weekly Housing Benefit awards capped at less then £50 a week for single people under 35 in some parts of the UK, this will mean the potential closure of every women’s refuge and homelessness hostel along with supported housing schemes for pensioners and those with acute physical or mental health conditions.  The combined financial loss to social housing providers could be as high as £400 million according to housing industry spokespeople quoted in trade magazine Inside Housing recently – and this is assuming that those over pensionable age are excluded from the cap.  To date no-one from the Treasury, DWP or Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) appears to have said they will be.

The DWP have said that any shortfall in payments to cover rents will be made up by Discretionary Housing Payments.  This is money given to local councils which can be used to top up housing benefits of those affected by cuts already introduced such as the Bedroom Tax and Benefit Cap.  Osborne himself has claimed there will be an additional money for these payments, believed to be around £70 million a year, but this will not come close to meeting the funding gap.  Just as importantly these payments are not ring-fenced and are discretionary – there will be no requirement by law for local authorities to meet people’s rents.  The implications are chilling  Without central control then any old swivel-eyed Tory Council could close a homelessness hostel or drug rehab project in their constituency simply by cutting off their income stream.

Perhaps most astonishingly – given that it is only now that the social housing sector has taken notice – is that this is a problem which is four years old.  Way back in 2012 the charity for domestic abuse survivors Women’s Aid warned that a combination of benefit caps and the reforms being introduced under Universal Credit would ‘decimate’ the women’s refuge system.  This led to Lord Fraud, the comedy toff brought in on the cheap to oversee welfare reforms, quickly pledging that payments for supported housing would continue under the current system.   Then followed a bitter row about what exactly the government means by supported housing, as well as concerns raised over funding for emergency temporary accommodation such as B&Bs.  Neither of these matters were ever fully resolved as DWP ministers dithered and dodged questions whilst homelessness charities and housing associations were too busy looking to profit from lucrative government contracts to pay attention to their impending destruction.

And so here we are again, except now homelessness has soared and over 100,000 children are living in expensive and insecure temporary accommodation.  These bed spaces are also under threat with DWP documents suggesting that housing benefit payments for temporary accommodation will now also be capped.  Previously the solution to temporary housing – which doesn’t have the same costs as supported housing but is more expensive than mainstream accommodation – was to allow an additional weekly payment of £40 to be added to housing benefit.  In the latest guidance aimed at social landlords explaining benefit changes however it states that homeless Universal Credit claimants in temporary housing will have their rents capped at the same level as those in the mainstream private sector.  There is no mention of additional funding.   So it is not just homelessness hostels, refuge’s and other supported housing that is under threat, but possibly B&Bs and private sector emergency accommodation.

Whilst these changes are terrifying and if implemented could lead to a street homelessness crisis that has not been seen before in a so-called developed economy, the DWP has a long way to go if this is truly what they want.  The cuts to housing benefits will not be implemented until 2018 and will only apply to tenancies signed after April this year.  This will prevent, at least for a couple of years, mass evictions.  But the biggest problem is that almost all of the people eligible for both supported and temporary accommodation would be classed as ‘statutory homeless’ if they were unable to find a roof over their heads.  This means that local authorities are bound, by law, to house them – there and then if they have nowhere to go that night.  There just won’t be any money to pay their rent.

In short, it’s a giant fucking mess and one the DWP have been trying to sweep under the carpet ever since Iain Duncan Smith’s half-baked reforms to the benefits system were first announced.  Expect another bodge as the realities of a modern social security system clash once again with the delusions of a Secretary of State who thought he could fix poverty by making people poorer.  The truth is this has probably only dragged on so long because no-one really believes that Universal Credit will ever be fully implemented anyway.  It sill might not be.  The tragedy, as Inside Housing reveals, is that this shambles is already having very real consequnces.  Social housing providers say that schemes to provide desperately needed new supported housing are currently on hold until the government makes it’s mind up about whether they should condemn everybody officially classed as ‘vulnerable’ to street homelessness or not.  Decisions, decisions.  What a bunch of cunts.

A march against the housing bill, which will decimate social housing, is taking place in London on Saturday January 30th.  More details on facebook, please spread the word.

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210,000 Pensioners Face Last Year’s Vicious Autumn Statement Cut

Osborne-mrbeanThe newspapers have been predicting that George Osborne is expected to raise the pension age to 69 in his Autumn statement today.  The cut he made last year to the incomes of some of the poorest pensioners however has gone almost unnoticed by the press.

Last year Osborne pegged benefit rises at 1% for the next two years no matter what happens to inflation.  This measure included Local Housing Allowance, the benefit paid to those on low incomes in to provide help with rent payments.  Pensioners are also eligible for this benefit, and the latest DWP statistics show that over 210,000 private sector tenants over 65 depend on this support.

Almost no-one seems to have noticed that this means that Osborne’s changes will hit pensioners despite government lies they would be protected from the cut.  Over 200,000 of the UK’s poorest pensioners will now see incomes shrink as the money they receive to stay in their homes is reduced and they will be forced to make up the difference out of meagre pensions.

How much their income will shrink is open to question.  A DWP Equalities Analysis predicted they will lose on average about £3 a week (PDF).  For those in high rent areas this is likely to be a woeful understatement.

Around 20,000 people over 65 are currently claiming LHA in London.  Rents are soaring in the capital, with one estimate claiming they have risen by 7.9% in just one year.  If this continues then a pensioner living in a private sector flat and claiming the LHA rate for central London could see their income reduced by up to £30 a week over the next two years.

Just like the victims of the Benefit Cap, these pensioners will be socially cleansed from the capital.  Some of them may have lived here their whole lives.  If they choose to stay they may face homelessness as rents soar.  This  will place even more pressure on Local Authorities to provide one bedroom flats at a time of desperate shortage of smaller properties due to the bedroom tax.  The housing crisis in London is set to get worse, and George Osborne is directly responsible.

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Poorest Pensioners Could Be Made Homeless By Osborne’s Benefit Slashing

gideon-osborneA Government Equality Analysis has revealed that some of the UK’s poorest pensioners could be forced from their homes due to George Osborne’s Benefit Uprating measures which will cap Local Housing Allowance (LHA) increases at 1%.

Disabled people, and those with children, are also likely to be affected and could find themselves forced to move the analysis warns.

Osborne announced in his Autumn statement last year that for the next two years almost all benefit increases will be capped at 1% no matter what happens to inflation.  With food, fuel and travel costs soaring this will place huge pressure on those who are already facing a desperate struggle for survival due to the raft of other vicious cuts to social security.

Up until now pensioners have been largely excluded from the savage cuts and rightly so.  The Equality Analysis reveals however that those over 65 living in private rented accommodation will be affected by the Benefit Uprating Bill.

According to the DWP, 12% of private renters claiming Local Housing Allowance (LHA) are over 65.  The only criteria for claiming LHA is income and assets, meaning that this benefit only goes to the poorest households – and the poorest pensioners.  It appears that the Government are only interested in protecting better off pensioners.  Those who are poor and already struggling between the choice of heating or eating can now add paying the rent to this horrific dilemma.

The Equality Analysis states: “the 65 plus age group renting in the private sector may be disproportionately disadvantaged than others of working age as they are more likely to be disabled or have a health condition and are far less likely to be able to increase their household income, either through working or increasing hours of work. Moving may be more of a challenge for claimants in this group that rely on local community support systems or have specific accommodation needs (eg. If they need to be in a ground floor property).”

The report also warns that lone parents and disabled people will be disproportionally affected by the cut, as these groups may find it more difficult to move if they can no longer afford the rent.  It also reveals that 46% of those impacted will be single women – with or without children – compared to 25% of those hit who will be single men.

In a crude attempt to offset some of the carnage from this change the Government has announced a Targeted Affordability Funding scheme.  This will provide some money for extra LHA increases in areas where rents rises far outstrip the meagre 1% on offer.  Astonishingly this money will not be used to increase housing benefits in the highest rent areas such as London where LHA is already capped far below market rents in many areas.  According to the report:  “those LHA rates which are currently capped in the most expensive areas will only increase by 1% as all LHA rates will still be subject to maximum limits”.

This Government is intent on socially cleansing the poor from London and other better off areas by any means necessary.

The DWP are quite open about the fact that the cap on LHA increases will mean some people will have to move.  In the section of the analysis on how the impact of this policy will be mitigated it suggests that:  “Some claimants may consider looking for cheaper accommodation”.

What this will mean in practice is that some claimants – including pensioners and disabled people – will be made homeless.  Few people on the lowest incomes can afford to just move at the drop of a hat even if there is anywhere for them to move to.  With house prices rising and the rental market sure to follow the trend, the number of properties affordable to those on benefits is set to shrink even further.

All measures of homelessness are rising and the use of foodbanks is at record levels.  Not content with this, George Osborne’s Benefit Uprating Bill will mean that the UK’s poorest people are set to be made even poorer on an annual basis.  No-one is to be excluded, not those in work on low wages or those who have worked their entire lives and are now drawing a pension.  Meanwhile  George Osborne has just spent £10 million of our money on some fancy office furniture.

You can read the Equality Analysis at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/262034/lha-uprating-equality-analysis.pdf

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More People Poor Than Ever Before As Numbers Claiming Housing Benefit Hit Record Levels

housing-benefit-recipientsThe number of people claiming some form of Housing Benefit has hit record levels giving a true indicator of plummeting living standards and high unemployment.

Housing Benefit (now called Local Housing Allowance) is paid to those in and out of work alike, as well as low income pensioners, those on sickness or disability benefits and lone parents.  In London it has recently been estimated that 44% of housing benefit claimants are in work but on wages which leave them unable to afford to pay the rent .  The only factor taken into account when assessing claims are income and savings, meaning that the number of people on housing benefit gives a good indication of how many people are poor in the UK.

And despite Tory lies about a million new jobs being created, the sad truth is that more people are poor than ever before.  Recently released statistics (PDF)  show that in February 2013 there were 5.08 million recipients of Housing Benefit, up from 4.74 million in May 2010 when this Government weren’t elected.  This is the highest figure since Housing Benefit was introduced in 1983.

The truth is that any job creation which might have taken place has been workfare, low income self-employment, zero hours contracts or part time work, leaving unprecedented numbers of people dependent on some benefits to survive.

The figures also reveal that despite endless propaganda about benefit claimants living in tax payer funded mansions, the average housing benefit entitlement is just £89.30 a week.

Around a quarter of housing benefit recipients are pensioners, a figure which has stayed fairly stable over recent years.  Pensioners are exempt from the recent vicious cuts to housing benefit, however 4 million claimants under pensionable age now face this vital benefit being cut due to the bedroom tax, benefit tax, benefit uprating bill and other measures.

Some of those people will be left with just a few pounds a week after paying the rent, whilst others will be driven from their homes completely.  Almost every working age Housing Benefit claimant has been affected by the cuts.  This means that not only are there more poor people than ever before, but that 4 million of them are now at very real risk of homelessness as incomes shrink and rent rises.  A recent DWP report revealed how many landlords are in the process of evicting housing benefit claimants due to the cuts.

Iain Duncan Smith  boasted over the weekend that he is prepared to make even further cuts to housing benefits, once again raising the spectre of ending the benefit completely for those under 25.  Homelessness is already soaring and the Secretary of State is determined to make the problem even worse.  The UK could look like a very different place in just a few years time as vast numbers of people lose their homes.  The responsibility for that will not just lie with George Osborne and his fucked economy, but with Iain Duncan Smith’s reckless, bodged and brutal attempts at social security reform.

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‘We won’t reduce the rent … We’ll kick them out’: Research Reveals Landlord’s Response to Housing Benefit Reform

HomelessA report published by the DWP gives a glimpse of the horrific future hundreds of thousands of people are set to face due to housing benefit reforms.

The report is part of an ongoing piece of ‘independent’ research commissioned by the DWP to look at the impact of the first raft of welfare reforms – the vicious cuts to housing benefits.  These included the caps on the amount of benefit available to pay for housing and a reduction in local housing allowance rates from the bottom 50% to 30% of the local rental market.  Another change meant that those aged under 35 are no longer entitled to a self-contained property, but can only claim the Shared Accommodation Rate (SAR).

The research features wide ranging interviews with claimants, landlords and housing advisors discussing the changes.  As is repeatedly pointed out, as these interviews were carried out throughout 2012, then many, if not most claimants will not have yet been affected by the reforms.  This research is therefore an indicator of how people are intending to  respond to the changes.   The report is also quite long so I won’t try cover it all in one post.

Predictably the most telling comments come from landlords.  According to the report, 16% of landlords who currently let to claimants plan to stop doing so due to the cuts.  Most landlords seem well aware of what is to come and are already making plans:

“I’m giving notice on [20 tenants affected by the change to the Shared Accommodation Rate], it’s not fair, I don’t like doing it. And we’re not taking any [more] on. We have to protect ourselves and we have to protect our landlords.”

This was the response of one letting agent to the vicious slashing of housing benefits for those under 35 and is an attitude which seems to dominate the private rental sector.  Despite initial claims by the Government that landlords would lower rents in response to the changes it seems that barely any of them have been prepared to do so.  Only those renting in areas with high numbers of claimants have seriously considered this as an option – but crucially even this in many cases appears to be just a temporary measure.  Landlords may be willing to accept a temporary small reduction in rent to avoid the expense of eviction, but will turf tenants out when tenancies are due for renewal.

Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is a localised benefit, which is paid according to the local cost of rents.  This decision to peg the maximum available at the bottom 30%, rather than 50% of the market, will mean hundreds of thousands of private sector tenants forced to pay some of their rent out of meagre benefits intended to pay for other living expenses.

The average loss to claimants according to the report is £7.76 a week – although due to the caps in some areas this will be far higher.  Landlords appear to be sceptical that those on benefits will be able to afford this, with one warning: “Some of them are making it up but a lot of them are struggling because it’s not just [LHA] that’s been cut, they’re getting other money cut as well, so it’s making it harder and harder.”

Many landlords report having already reduced the number of claimants they rent to on Local Housing Allowance due to the introduction of Direct Payments by the Labour Government in 2008.  This meant that generally rent payments were sent direct  to tenants not landlords, a move which was hugely unpopular amongst those renting out property.  When Universal Credit is finally launched, the Direct Payments regime will be strengthened and also applied to the social housing sector.  The  very thing that most landlords say puts them off renting to claimants is about to be hugely extended.

As would be expected, one of the biggest impacts of the reforms has been in London where in some boroughs almost no properties are now affordable to those on benefits due to the caps.  This will not just affect those out of work – 44% of housing benefit claimants in London are working.  It will also not just impact on central London boroughs such as Westminster where rents are astronomical.  A letting agent in Barking and Dagenham reports their current strategy on renting to tenants on benefits: “We have slowly, slowly been booting them out, average between 150 and 200 properties.”

The research also reveals that a less well known, but sweeping reform to housing benefits, the introduction of the Shared Accommodation Rate for those under 35, could bring some of the most devastating consequences.   This change, which means anyone under 35 will have to find a room in a shared house to be eligible for LHA, was carried out without any assessment of whether enough properties exist to house all those who need them.

The report suggests that this is not the case, with many landlords pulling out of the multiple occupancy market due to recently introduced regulations.  Planning permission is now needed if a property is to be used for multiple tenants in a move which many landlords claim has made the sector unprofitable.  Quite simply, most landlords say the Shared Accommodation rate is too low, summed up by this quote from a landlord in Perth:  “‘Where’s the difference going to come from £52 [LHA] up to £85 a week [rent]?  There’s no way somebody on £120 a fortnight can afford to pay the difference and I can’t rent them out at £53 a week. I think they’ll possibly be moving, I can’t see any alternative.”

Almost all landlords quoted say they are planning to evict claimants under 35, with some going even further and suggesting they will now not rent to anyone from this age group: “We’re not housing under 35s now, so long term it will resolve itself because we’re not putting anyone in under 35. But we’ve got this 15, 20 people who are going to be on the street.”

This comment is backed up by a housing advice worker later in the report who says: “a lot of existing agents and landlords have told me they’ve now served notice on every tenant they have under 35. Even those tenants who might be in work at the moment, a lot of landlords have thought if they lose their job they won’t be able to pay the rent.”

Many landlords fear that tenants under 35 will face homelessness as a result of the drastic cuts: “[They’ll end up] on the streets, they’ve got nowhere to go. These people haven’t got no funds.”

Others have concerns that separated parents will no longer be able to have their children stay with one Hackney landlord saying: “There are going to be certain tenants who it’s going to have a massive impact on.  My heart bleeds for them, because the majority of them are divorced fathers who see their kids. I’ve got one lovely guy, he’s got three kids, wife lives in Hillingdon, kids come and spend the weekend with him, where’s he going to put them? Does he lose his visitation rights to his children because he hasn’t got a job or hasn’t got the home to be able to offer the children somewhere to sleep [because] there isn’t any room?”

Like many of the bodged welfare reforms, it will be the most marginalised who are worst affected by the slashing of LHA rates for under 35s.  Those likely to end up homeless will be the people who cannot go back to live with their parents, or who face other difficulties such as a mental or physical health condition which makes sharing difficult or even impossible.

Whilst claimants in some form of supported accommodation, such as homeless nightshelters or women’s refuges have been exempt from the reforms (so far), many Local Authorities used informal relationships with landlords to provide housing for those they deem ‘vulnerable’.  The report suggests this is all likely to come to an end, with one landlord reporting: “‘I’m kicking them all out … I’m serving them notices because I want, on the day the rent will have to be changed, they’ll already be out … It’s a complete change to the portfolio.  I’ve always been the person they phone up and say they’ve got somebody who’s not well or who’s just come out of drug rehabilitation, that kind. I’ve always taken them in and never had a problem but I’m not going to do it any more.”

To read the DWP’s gushing press release which accompanied this report you would never guess the bleak future it describes for low income tenants.  This is far from surprising.  Minister for Welfare Reform, Lord Fraud claimed the first piece of research in this series proved tenants were not facing excessive financial difficulties due to housing benefit reforms.  In fact the research had revealed that many tenants were having serious money problem before the cuts were even introduced.

This time the DWP is attempting to use the research to claim that there has been no Kosovo style social cleansing due to LHA reforms and people are not being exported from London in huge numbers.  But that’s because the report was carried before most claimants had been affected by the changes.  The views of claimants themselves, along with housing advice workers, (both of which I’ll cover later this week) reveals that this mass forced expulsion is simply yet to come.

It’s also important to note this research does not include the impact of the Bedroom Tax, the overall benefit cap or Council Tax benefit reform.  Nor does it consider the changes to DLA, Employment Support Allowance, the upcoming nightmare that is Universal Credit or the huge rise in the numbers of claimants having benefit’s sanctioned.  It also does not examine the consequences of the Benefit Uprating Bill which will see Local Housing Allowance rises capped at 1% annually despite rents soaring by over ten times that figure in some parts of the UK.

If this report makes grim reading (and it does) for all those concerned about the future of housing for people on low incomes, then it is only a small taste of what is to come.

The report can be read at: http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd5/report_abstracts/rr_abstracts/rra_838.asp

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DWP Forced to Repay Disabled Victims of Labour’s Bedroom Tax

bedroom-tax-protestIn a humiliating blow for both Labour and Iain Duncan Smith, the DWP has admitted that local councils will have to pay back-dated housing benefits to some families with disabled children who were hit by the private sector Bedroom Tax.

A letter from the DWP to Local Authorities published on the Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) website gives full details: http://www.dpac.uk.net/2013/03/urgent-news-for-parents-of-disabled-children-renting-in-private-sector-money-back-from-dwp/

Labour shamefully introduced the bedroom tax for private sector tenants with the emergence of the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) which replaced much of the housing benefit system.  This is the same Labour who have attempted to hijack the campaign against the despised bedroom tax for social housing tenants. In at least Birmingham and Liverpool they were told exactly where to go at yesterday’s protests.

Under the LHA rules, parents with a disabled child renting in the private sector, and who needed an extra room for an overnight carer, had money deducted from payments towards rent.

Iain Duncan Smith had fought hard to try and extend this to social housing tenants as part of the latest bedroom tax.  However along with other concessions to the vicious tax, which will now exempt some foster carers and parents of children in the armed forced, he recently announced a climb down.

This was not due to a sudden attack of conscience on Iain Duncan Smith’s part, or any compassion for disabled children.  The change is down to a case brought before the Court of Appeal by Burnip, Trengove and Gorry last year.  The judges unanimously agreed the housing benefit regulations discriminate against disabled people, because they do not allow for an additional room to be paid for where a disabled person has a carer, or where two children cannot share a room because of disability.

Iain Duncan Smith had planned to appeal the judgement to the Supreme Court, but now seems to have relented.  This is hardly surprising after his workfare regulations were recently slammed by courts and judged unalwful.  In the case of workfare, IDS is attempting to change history by introducing a bill before Parliament on Tuesday which will back-date the law and make a mockery of the Judiciary.

It seems that re-writing history twice in one week is too much for even the Secretary of State however and the DWP has contacted Local Authorities warning them they will have to repay some benefits reduced due to the private sector bedroom tax.  This comes along with a confirmation – although the exact situation remains unclear – that some families with disabled children will not be affected by next months changes.

This will only affect a fraction of a percentage of the families who will see already meagre benefits slashed when the bedroom tax begins in just over two weeks.  But for some tenants at least it is an important victory and a testament to the determination of the families who pushed the case through the courts.

It is also a timely reminder of Labour’s dirty little bedroom tax secret that they hoped we’d forget as they exploited claimant’s poverty for their own party political ends.

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Nationwide Bans The Poor From Private Renting

no-dssUPDATE: Nationwide have backed down releasing the following statement on their facebook page: 

“The Mortgage Works, a subsidiary of Nationwide Building Society, has removed the exclusion of tenants on benefits and Local Authority tenants from its Buy-to-Let terms and conditions. This follows concerns raised by its customers.

“The clarification of the terms and conditions, which took place last December, brought The Mortgage Works into line with several other Buy-to-Let lenders. This will now be removed.”

In a shocking, and possibly illegal decision, one of Britain’s biggest buy-to-let mortgage lenders is to ban landlords from accepting tenants on Local Housing Allowance.

This nasty little move will mean unemployed, disabled people, many pensioners and people on low wages will be locked out of a large sector of the private rental market.  This comes at a time when homelessness is soaring and the bedroom tax is set to force hundreds of thousands of people out of local authority housing and into the private sector.

Nationwide’s subsidiary, The Mortgage Works, are one of the largest mortgages providers for the buy-to-let vermin who have caused soaring rents and house prices.  The company say:  “Previously, lending to landlords with local authority tenants was not explicitly referenced in TMW’s lending criteria. Our re-issued terms and conditions make it explicit that local authority tenants are not acceptable.”

By local authority tenants they actually mean Housing Benefit tenants.  Many tenants on Housing Benefits are working, however should they lose their job, become disabled or fall ill, then they may now face homelessness as their landlords will have no choice but to evict.

In truth it is none of a landlord’s fucking business, or his banks, whether tenants are on benefits or not and there is no requirement to tell them.  This will sadly be of cold comfort to many tenants however, who all too often live in fear of eviction on the whims of the landlord.  Most tenants can be thrown out of their home for any reason or none with just two months notice.

Nationwide’s decision comes on the back of savage cuts to Housing Benefits which have already made much of the South East of England unaffordable for people on low incomes.  The growing homelessness epidemic in the South is soon to be matched by mass homelessness in Northern England, Scotland and Wales as the bedroom tax begins to bite.

On top of this will come the drip drip effect of George Osborne’s decision to cap annual Housing Benefit rises at 1%, despite a soaring rental market.  And in April this year the benefit cap begin to kick in which will force thousands of people out of London or onto the streets.

Already the cuts have led to local councils placing homeless families in hotels which can cost almost £3000 a week.  People’s lives are being torn apart and the Housing Benefit bill is still rising.

No DSS has long been a common sign on the windows of letting agents.  Some landlords say they will not even take working tenants on DLA, effectively banning disabled people from their housing.  This, along with punitive deposits, credit and reference checks, mean accessing private sector housing is more difficult than ever before for those on low incomes.

At present people with resident children, or those disabled or unwell enough to convince their council they are officially ‘vulnerable’, are legally able to gain some help should they become homeless.  Increasingly that means B&Bs as the number of people presenting as homeless rockets.

Yet landlords, mortgage lenders and property speculators are making millions as they exploit the soaring demand for housing.  In many parts of the UK, even a so called ‘living wage’ is not enough to pay the rent.  If Nationwide’s greedy demand is repeated by other lenders and landlords then it will mean disabled, sick, unemployed or low waged workers are effectively barred from housing in the UK.  You can tell the recession profiteers what you think of that on twitter @AskNationwide or at: http://www.facebook.com/NationwideBuildingSociety

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Lord Fraud Spins Out of Control As Homelessness Starts to Soar

A new independent study was published this week which reveals that over half a million families could face homelessness in the next year due to the Government’s brutal cuts to Local Housing Allowance (otherwise known as Housing Benefit).

Around a third of private sector landlords who currently let to LHA claimants have said they will stop, or are considering stopping, letting to claimants in the next 12 months.  This could remove the availability of around half a million homes from the low paid, pensioners, disabled or unemployed people.

The number of people claiming LHA has soared to over 5 million, up 25% since 2008, largely due to huge numbers of people only being able to find part time work.  The figure, which includes over a million pensioners, show that around 1.6 million of the total number of LHA claimants are private tenants who will be affected by the cut to the Local Housing Allowance.

The study released this week is the first part of a piece of research commissioned by the DWP to track the effects of the vicious cuts to LHA.  Astonishingly Lord Freud, the Minister for Welfare Reform has claimed:

“The research published today gives us an early insight into what is really happening and I am encouraged that it shows that the many scare stories about the effects of housing benefit reform are not materialising.

This represents a staggering misreading of the report which includes a survey with 1,910 current LHA claimants.  The surveys were carried out in Autumn last year meaning the vast majority (1,356 claimants) have not so far been affected by the caps.  Only those who have started new claims since April 2011 will have felt any effect from the cuts.  One of the most devastating changes, which will see those aged under 35 only eligible for a room in a shared house, has still not yet been implemented.

Despite this 67% of tenants claim that there is a shortfall between the LHA they receive and their rent – and this is before the cuts have been introduced.  12% of tenants are currently in arrears, and 43% say they are currently finding it very difficult (23%) or fairly difficult (20%) to meet rent payments.

Of perhaps most concern is that 93% of current LHA claimants say they don’t know very much, or know nothing at all, about the upcoming changes to their LHA payments.  This suggests the Government has failed dismally to explain the upcoming devastation set to be caused by the drastic cuts, which will only now be beginning to affect some, though not all, of existing claimants.

Lord Fraud’s claims that all in rosy for LHA claimants either reveals startling naivety or gross  dishonesty.  This report suggests that huge numbers of people were struggling to hold onto their homes even with the system as it was before the cuts.  With homelessness agencies reporting a 16% rise in homeless households in the first three months of this year, the crisis is already escalating.  It will not be until towards the end of this year that the full extent of the LHA cuts will be felt, and even then the £500 a week benefit cap will not yet have been implemented.

Ever the willing lapdog, the Daily Telegraph has hailed the results of the study as a triumph.  Completely misreading the situation, the paper hails the news that a quarter of LHA claimants were looking for work to help meet rent payments.  This is hardly surprising news, given that 21% of those surveyed were in receipt of Job Seekers Allowance, a condition of which is that the claimant must look for work.  It is unlikely that the 25% of those on LHA who are claiming a pension are out looking for a job to avoid impending homelessness.  The study also neglects to inform us whether any of those looking for work have actually found a job, something which is increasingly unlikely in the current climate.

It is the results of the survey of landlords which perhaps reveals the grimmest view of the future.  Out of touch ministers believed that landlords would negotiate and lower rents due to LHA reforms.  The Telegraph hails the new study as evidence that this is taking place, claiming that of those who have attempted to renegotiate rents with landlords, around 1 in 4 were successful.

Many of those people will have renegotiated rents before the cuts – it remains to be seen whether landlords will agree to a further decrease in rent levels when the LHA cuts take effect.  In fact the study is quite explicit in its findings stating that: “in this early stage of the reform, the LHA measures had not, in practice, resulted in an increase in negotiation between claimants and landlords over rent levels”.

Of more concern is the result that 30% of London landlords are already not renewing tenancies due to the LHA changes, whilst only 5% may be prepared to negotiate a lower rent with an existing, or prospective tenant.  Landlords are more encouraged to lower rents if LHA payments are sent directly to them, reducing the risk of arrears building up.  This will no longer be an option when Universal Credit,the new benefit system, is finally implemented.

Lord Fraud can spin all he wants, but this report makes bleak reading.  The Telegraph claim that only 3% of people have been forced to move due to LHA cuts.  What the report actually shows is that 3% of people were having to leave their homes due to LHA rates being too low before the cuts were implemented.

Even with the system as it was huge numbers of people were struggling to pay their rent, and most are unaware of the upcoming tsunami.  The vast majority of landlords are not prepared to make any concessions, and with rents soaring as home ownership becomes an unaffordable dream for most, why would they?

On top of this comes the news that 4000 bed spaces for homeless people have been lost due to cuts.  A perfect storm is coming that may well see homelessness on an unprecedented scale in the UK .  Lord Fraud’s spin will seem as empty as his policies when sleeping bags once again line the streets of London.

Credit to Black Triangle Campaign for spotting the study which can be read at (PDF): http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd5/rports2011-2012/rrep798.pdf

Benefit Claimant Fightback Begins – December 15th 2010

It’s starting small, embryonic even (as in going to get a lot fucking bigger) but the fight back against benefits cuts has begun.

A group of autonomous benefit claimants from around the country have called for a National Day of Protest Against Welfare & Housing Benefit Cuts on December 15th.  They call on all claimants, unemployed action groups, service users and service providers to organise protests in their area.

Suggestions have included sit ins at Civic Centres, Town Halls and MP constituency offices, mass sign ups to the housing register or why not call a Christmas party in your local Housing Benefit office.

London claimants will be attending the Housing Emergency Demonstration at Downing Street at 12.30pm, organised by newly formed Housing Emergency Coalition.  Bring cardboard and sleeping bags to create a cardboard city and then onto Trafalgar Square at 3pm for Christmas fun under the tree.

Rumours abound of events already being plotted in Edinburgh and possibly Brighton.  Please join the event page on facebook and help spread the word far and wide.  This is our first chance to say no to these cuts and warn we won’t pay for their crisis.

The students have shown the way, now it’s our turn.

Talking of students, they’ll be getting up close and personal with Lib Demmers at their London conference on Saturday whilst elsewhere activists will be visiting Top Shop’s flagship store at Oxford Circus.

Iain Duncan Smith – Lying or Stupid?

It’s becoming increasingly hard to tell.   Iain Duncan Smith has supposedly been working on benefit reform for ages, yet he still seems blissfully unaware of how Housing Benefit works.

He talks with great angst of poor families on 20k a year who couldn’t afford to live in city centres, whilst the poor cavort in our Mayfair mansions.  Does he not know that Housing Benefit is an in-work benefit?  Has he not realised that a family with two kids on 20k a year could claim over £200 a week in Local Housing Allowance in some areas?  Has he even bothered to actually look at the Housing Benefit rules?  Is he just really fucking thick?

Or is he just a lying piece of Tory scum?