Brighton housing expert says benefits change will bring misery

Posted On 04 Jan 2012 at 4:42 am

Changes to housing benefit rules “will usher in a year of housing and homelessness misery for hundreds of people in Brighton and Hove”, according to a leading expert.

The changes mean that many single people aged 25 to 34 who had no dependent children and who rented from a private landlord would be eligible for a lower rate of benefit.

Those affected would be men and women living in a one-bedroom or studio flat.

From New Year’s Day they would be entitled only to the shared accommodation rate of housing benefit which may not cover their rent.

This would put them at risk of being made homeless, Andy Winter, the chief executive of Brighton Housing Trust (BHT), said.

He cited research by the Chartered Institute of Housing which suggested that 5,800 homes in Brighton and Hove would become unaffordable for men and women on housing benefit.

The result would be that 13,000 homes would be available to rent in Brighton and Hove for 13,700 claimants.

Mr Winter’s warning came as Brighton and Hove City Council predicted that about 750 people locally faced having their housing benefit cut by up to £70 a week.

Help

The council said that it was “making every effort to help residents facing a cut in their housing benefit as a result of new rules increasing the threshold age for shared accommodation”.

It said that it had written to all those who could be affected and sent follow-up letters. The letters explained the new rules and offered guidance and advice from a range of agencies working in partnership with the council.

Few would be affected immediately, the council said, as the changes would take effect on the anniversary of the claim for housing benefit.

Mr Winter said: “Many organisations across the country, including BHT, have been warning that the consequences of changes to housing benefit would result in a significant increase in homelessness and rough sleeping.

“The figures published by the Chartered Institute provide the best forecasts to date of the impact.

“In Brighton and Hove the situation will be compounded by the ‘landlords market’ which is seeing rents increasing faster than in most other areas of the country.

“In the last six months, even before these changes, there has been a steep rise in rough sleeping in the city.

“I have consistently warned of a ‘perfect storm’ being created, that 2012 will see a huge rise in homelessness and rough sleeping.

“The decision to proceed with these changes in housing benefit entitlement will usher in a year of housing and homelessness misery for hundreds of people in Brighton and Hove.”

Councillor Jason Kitcat, the council’s cabinet member for finance and central services, said: “We are fully aware that this national change to housing benefit rules will put some people in a very difficult situation so we are working with our partners in the city to make sure the worst effects of these changes are prevented from happening.”

He said that anyone affected should contact the council on 01273 292000 in case the need to move could be avoided.

  1. Breton Reply

    And why shouldn’t single people who claim housing benefit share a house? That’s exactly what I had to do when I couldn’t afford a place of my own. The only difference is that I was working.

    Yet another example of the Green Council caring more about those who won’t work than those who do. My own fault because I voted for them. Not again.

  2. Valerie Paynter, saveHOVE Reply

    In order to make the shared accommodation rule work, it is going to be important to have a matching change to local planning policy to counteract the negative effect.

    At the moment a developer can take a property with 3 (or is it 4?) bedrooms and chop it up into tiny (unshareable) units. This needs to be raised to 5 or 6 in order to allow for groups of young people to share.

    Quite apart from the needs of young people sharing there is a huge problem of a shortage of family housing for families. So the planning policy needs to be seriously tightened just anyway to stop developers turning everything they can get their hands on into tiny (profitable) units.

    Back in the late sixties, early 1970’s, the Kensington area of London was full of unmodernised HUGE flats with loads of rooms that made flat-sharing cheap and easy (if cold in the pre-central heating era). Flat-sharing is good for social life and for creating the foundations of the rest of your adult life when you are in the early 20’s phase of life. I loved it. These days such opportunities are not available to our youth in the same way.

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