The tenants’ trap

Following the actions of Fergus and Judith Wilson hundreds of private renters have been served legal eviction notices– simply for receiving some housing benefit. According to the most recent National Landlords Association survey just one in five landlords let to people on benefits.

Those in desperate need may turn to their council for homelessness assistance. All local authorities in England have a legal duty to assist people who are homeless, or threatened with homelessness. As the loss of Read more

The ‘Unrentables’

It might sound like a bad cartoon movie, but it’s becoming real life: the ‘unrentables’ are a subset of the 10 million renters in Britain, who find it increasingly hard to find a landlord that will rent a property to them. Impossibly high rents in some parts of the country mean more and more people in work are needing housing benefit (HB) to meet housing costs, a trend that shows no sign of slowing. Over a third (34%) of those Read more

Rachel- why campaigning matters

On Saturday afternoon I treated myself to a leg wax. Probably too much information for a policy blog but it provides context, I promise.

My beauty therapist was called Rachel,* and we had a chance to chat during the appointment.

Rachel is the reason that Shelter campaigns to fix private renting. Let me explain.

Rachel is moving house this weekend- she had been asked to leave her flat by her landlord. She was midway through a 12 month fixed … Read more

Bedroom tax legal, but not right. Shelter analysis of today’s court ruling

Attempts to moderate the worst impacts of the bedroom tax have suffered a set-back after the High Court ruled that the policy making process did not disproportionately discriminate against disabled people. If you are disabled, have severely disabled children or are at risk of violence, the hope for protection has now shifted back to politicians and campaigners. It has become even more important that national political leaders offer support, or they will bear responsibility for the emerging consequences of this … Read more

Scrutiny of benefit bill should trigger building, not cuts

After lots of policy posturing over the last few years, Ed Miliband’s speech today set out the clearest indication yet on what a Labour government would do on welfare, a sensitive and tricky issue for the party.

The main points from the speech were that the Labour party is now going to be using the term ‘social security’ instead of ‘welfare’, they are looking into an overall cap on welfare spending, and were crystal clear that the housing benefit bill … Read more

Small-scale Universal Credit pilot dodges crucial tests

If Betsy Duncan Smith had been in a humorous mood when the Work and Pensions Secretary arrived home on Monday night, she could have screened the movie Ghostbusters.

Day one of Universal Credit reminded me of that scene where the office has opened, the staff are primed – and then they wait and wait for the phone to ring.

So far no one has come forward to actually claim Universal Credit, the cornerstone of the coalition’s welfare reform policy.

This … Read more

Homeless families to be hit twice by benefit cap

The overall benefit cap comes into force today, imposing a maximum ceiling on the amount of support a household can claim, regardless of need.

It’s popular but controversial, both sentiments stemming in large part from its simplicity: by adopting a single, national maximum, the policy ignores the wide variations in rent that exist across the country.

Ministers have already been quick to hail it a success, although their claim that it has directly encouraged families into work was equally … Read more

Homelessness rises as benefits are cut – coincidence?

Two days after George Osborne’s budget for an ‘aspiration nation’, with its focus on home ownership, today’s homelessness statistics reveal the reality for people at the sharp end of Britain’s housing crisis.

Homelessness acceptances are up 10% since 2011 to 53,450 households, 64% of them accepted because they’re families with dependent children.

The number of households placed in B&B accommodation is up 26% to 4,000, including 1,690 families with children. The number of families stuck in B&Bs beyond the legal … Read more

Time for a sea change among buy-to-let lenders?

England’s rapidly growing private rented sector isn’t playing the role it was set up to play.

When you hear that a third of renters are families with children, or that as many as four in ten renters receive some housing benefit to pay their rent, it becomes clear that the image of renters as students and mobile young professionals is very out of date.

Last week this tension between perception and reality hit the headlines, with reports that Nationwide had … Read more

CPI or 1 per cent rises: The real story is the missing link to rents

As part of today’s Autumn Statement the Chancellor announced changes to the way Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates will be up-rated over the next three years. Rates will only be up-rated annually by one per cent [PDF] in 2014/15 and 2015/16, as part of a package of real-term cuts to working age benefits. There will be some protection for the most over-heated markets but details remain sketchy.

Also skipped over was the fact that this is an additional cut being … Read more

Why the 'underemployed' face loss of support for housing costs

One in ten people in the UK is now underemployed, meaning they would like to work more hours to boost their earnings but are unable to find suitable jobs.

The problem of underemployment has bubbled around the squeezed middle debate for some time, but the Office for National Statistics has now crunched the numbers and discovered that more than three million Britons are unable to find sufficient work.

Importantly these workers are not people actively choosing to work part-time to … Read more

Sexually abused? Proceed to question 7b

Plans to ban under-25s from claiming housing benefit have caused considerable concern. Shelter and 12 other charities wrote an open letter (£) to The Times this week warning of a rise in homelessness if this essential safety net is removed from younger adults.

Briefings from No 10 and the Treasury have tried to soften criticisms by suggesting that ‘vulnerable’ claimants would be exempt and still able to access support. However, this is unworkable in practice without leaving many deserving young … Read more