Tag Archives: bed and breakfast

Homelessness hits five-year high – Shelter

homelesshigh

The number of people made homeless because they were evicted by their private landlord has more than doubled in the last five years, new government figures show, according to Shelter.

In the past twelve months, 13,990 households were accepted as homeless by their council after their landlord ended their private rented tenancy, compared with 5,650 five years ago. Private rental evictions became the number one cause of homelessness for the first time in early 2012, and now represent nearly a third (30 per cent) of all homelessness cases in England.

More than nine million people now privately rent their homes in England, and almost one in three renting households are families. Shelter is warning that the situation is likely to get worse as a combination of sky-high rents, unstable short-term tenancies and a wave of welfare changes are leaving thousands of families struggling to find anywhere they can afford to live.

The government’s figures also reveal that the number of homeless families in temporary accommodation rose to 44,510 – the highest it has been for five years.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Behind every one of these shocking statistics stands a person or a family who’s gone through the tragedy of losing their home. And what’s more worrying is that we know these figures are only the tip of the iceberg.

“The failure of successive governments to build enough affordable homes has left us with a housing market that’s totally out of control. As a result more and more families are finding themselves living in unstable rented homes, unable to put down roots and facing a monthly battle with sky-high housing costs.

“We speak to families every day who are struggling to cope with the cost of housing, often forced to cut back on essentials or even skip meals just to keep a roof over their children’s heads.

“With so many of us already on a financial knife-edge, all it takes is one thing like a sudden rent rise to tip a family into a spiral that ends in homelessness.

“Politicians have to give back hope to all those crying out for a stable home, by building the genuinely affordable homes that we desperately need.”

Wait – there’s more (according to Shelter’s blog).

While the overall number of households accepted as homeless has slightly dropped again this quarter, the number in B&B has increased to an 11 year high.

And the number of households placed in temporary accommodation in another council area is at the highest level since records began in 1998.  And a quarter of temporary accommodation is now out of area.

What Shelter won’t tell you is that this is the intended result of government policies designed to turf people the Conservatives (and, one imagines, the Liberal Democrats) deem undesirable out of areas they consider to be desirable and force them to find somewhere else to live – if they can.

The Bedroom Tax, the Benefit Cap, low wages, high private rents and house prices all contribute to this, and are either Tory policies or phenomena the Tories and their friends have allowed to go unchecked.

Tories don’t care if these people end up starving on the street, as long as they can make a fat wad of cash out of the space they leave behind.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Who can afford to buy or rent property in Britain now?

This bubble will burst: The Coalition government has engineered a recovery based on the false inflation of house prices and rents.

This bubble will burst: The Coalition government has engineered a recovery based on the false inflation of house prices and rents. It is bound to burst; the only questions are when – and who will be harmed by the fallout? [Picture: Haynesonfire blog]

Today the BBC reported that average private sector housing rents have hit a record high of £757 per month – just three days after the Corporation told us house prices have also hit a record high (averaging £247,000).

If you are an “average” UK earner (whatever that is), then your income has been cut by almost 10 per cent in the three years and five months since David Cameron became Prime Minister. Who can afford to rent at these prices? Who can afford to buy?

And is this the private rented accommodation that people affected by the Bedroom Tax were supposed to rent instead?

Are these the houses on which the government is going to underwrite 15 per cent of the mortgage in its ‘Help to Buy’ scheme? Already a(nother) huge housing bubble is growing and the debt crisis when it bursts will be appalling.

Meanwhile, everything costs a fortune and you have no money.

But somebody is buying. And somebody is renting.

Somebody rich, obviously.

“Higher rents in almost every region show that, despite government schemes, buying a first home is still a difficult aspiration,” the article quotes David Newnes, director of LSL Property Services.

“This is not only down to low salary growth, but also a general shortage of supply – which is the underlying reason why homes are getting more expensive. The long-term trend to renting therefore looks unlikely to change significantly in the near future.”

So the lack of house-building – either to buy or to rent – has proved lucrative for property developers and landlords. They don’t need to build any more if the value of their current buildings keeps rising. And nobody else can afford to build.

In the meantime, people in social housing are feeling the bite of the Bedroom Tax, with 50,000 families in danger of eviction because of it – putting pressure on local authorities who have to pay through the nose to put them into bed and breakfast accommodation instead.

Was this the Tory plan? To make things – the important things like housing and land – so expensive that only they and their friends could afford them? To push you into dependency by proxy?

And we didn’t see it coming?

Gosh.

At least nobody reading this voted for them. Anyone who did that must feel like a real chump now.

Will ‘independent’ study whitewash the Bedroom Tax?

Doesn't he look like a puppet? In fact the correct term is 'marionette' - for a puppet on strings, worked from above. But who's pulling Nick Clegg's strings this time?

Doesn’t he look like a puppet? In fact the correct term is ‘marionette’ – for a puppet on strings, worked from above. But who’s pulling Nick Clegg’s strings this time?

The Government is running an independent study into the impact of the Bedroom Tax, in order to find out if it is really possible for social housing tenants to move into smaller accommodation to escape its effects. The result should more likely be feared than welcomed.

Nick Clegg announced that the study was taking place in response to a Parliamentary question from Harriet Harman – but was immediately undermined by the Department for Work and Pensions. A government spokesman said the DWP routinely commissions research on new policies and an independent consortium was already carrying out evaluation work.

Clegg had to say he was taking action after his own party voted to change its policy on the Tax – the Liberal Democrats now oppose it – but this is not cause for celebration.

Who will carry out this independent study? We are told it is an “independent consortium” but what does that mean? What will be their terms of reference? What questions will they be asking and will they be the questions that need to be asked?

Observers should be raising serious doubts about all of these because this is not a government with a good track record on evidence-led policy.

We all know what this is about – the government’s hugely flawed scheme to claw back Housing Benefit cash from social housing tenants, taking 14 per cent of payments from those with one spare bedroom, and a quarter of the benefit from anyone with two. The Discretionary Housing Payment scheme for local councils was boosted to £60 million in anticipation of extra demand from struggling tenants.

It is true that evidence about the policy is conflicting. Lord Freud, introducing it in the House of Lords, apparently refused to listen to arguments that there were too few single-bedroom properties into which under-occupiers could downsize. Now he is blaming local authorities for the shortage.

The government said the policy would save £480 million, but the increased cost of DHPs must be subtracted from that, and also the costs of people who do manage to downsize. This could range from just four per cent of the 660,000 affected households to 20 per cent, depending on who you believe – a recent study by the University of York suggested that 20 per cent of households intended to move (which isn’t quite the same as actually doing it), but this was based on evidence from just four housing associations.

It seems unlikely that one-fifth of everyone affected nationally is moving to a different property – but even if they were, this would not create a saving for the government because it would have to pay out, not only increased Housing Benefit for those who have moved into smaller but more expensive private rented housing, but also Housing Benefit for people moving into the now-vacant larger social housing.

And then there are the people who cannot downsize but cannot afford the rent if their Housing Benefit is reduced. Recent reports had 50,000 households facing eviction – around one-thirteenth of the total number affected.

If they become homeless, local councils will have to find temporary accommodation for them – and this is paradoxically much more expensive than putting them in social housing, because they have to go into bed-and-breakfast rooms. Homelessness was already on the increase before the Bedroom Tax was introduced, rising from 44,160 households in 2011-12 to 53,540 in 2012-13.

Not only that, but there has been a sharp increase in complaints about this accommodation, according to the Local Government Ombudsman.

Finally, let us not forget that at least one suicide has been attributed to the Bedroom Tax – that of Stephanie Bottrill.

So definitive research is certainly desirable. There’s just one problem: The Coalition Government is very good at commissioning ‘independent’ reports that say exactly what ministers want them to.

Look at the report on culling badgers to get rid of bovine tuberculosis. A seven-year study during New Labour’s period in office concluded that this would be useless, and in fact could worsen the situation. The Coalition came in and a new study appeared advocating a cull.

With no knowledge of who is carrying out the report it is hard to predict whether its findings will be accurate – or just what the government ordered.

Bedroom tax will put people on streets while homes go empty

The National Housing Federation ran a campaign against the ‘bedroom tax’ while the legislation was going through Parliament – but the government was blind to the concerns of this expert organisation.

By now you should know that you’ll be in financial trouble from April next year, if you receive housing benefit and the government decides you’ve got one or two too many bedrooms.

This applies to people who are working but on low pay, who must therefore claim housing benefit in order to keep a roof over their heads. This means it applies to 93 per cent of people who have claimed housing benefit since the Coalition government came to power (only seven per cent of claimants were unemployed).

It applies to separated parents who share the care of their children and who may have been allocated an extra bedroom to reflect this. Benefit rules mean that there must be a designated ‘main carer’ for children (who receives the extra benefit).

It applies to couples who use their ‘spare’ bedroom when recovering from an illness or operation.

It applies to foster carers, because foster children are not counted as part of the household for benefit purposes (this is particularly evil, in my view).

It applies to parents whose children visit but are not part of the household -although housholds where there is a room kept for a student studying away from home will not be deemed to be under-occupying if the student is away for less than 52 weeks (under housing benefit) or six months (under Universal Credit). Students are exempt from non-dependant deductions, but full-time students will not be exempt from the Housing Cost Contribution (HCC) which replaces non-dependent deductions under Universal Credit (more on this elsewhere in the article). Students over 21 will face a contribution in the region of £15 per week.

It applies to families with disabled children; and

It applies to disabled people, including those living in adapted or specially designed properties (again, this is evil, as it could mean these people will be required to leave that home for another one, with the added expense of having to re-install all the special adaptations).

Pensioners will not be affected – unless they are part of a couple and the partner is below pension age, after Universal Credit is introduced.

The size criteria that will be applied means housing benefit wil be restricted to allow for one bedroom for each person or couple living as part of the household. However:

Children under 16, who are either both boys or both girls, will be expected to share. This will undoubtedly create many family feuds as puberty is not known for its calming effect on young people.

Children under 10 will be expected to share, regardless of gender. Again, this will create problems for families. It is not a normal situation and it seems bizarre for the government to suggest that it should be.

On the ‘plus’ side, a disabled tenant or partner who needs a non-resident overnight carer will be allowed an extra bedroom for that carer.   If you have a ‘spare’ bedroom under the new rules, you will lose 14 per cent of your housing benefit; for two or more extra bedrooms, you’ll lose a quarter of your benefit. According to the government’s impact assessment, this means 660,000 people will lose an average of £14 per week (£16 for housing association tenants).

Now for the complications.

After Universal Credit is brought in, if only one member of a couple is over pension age, the bedroom tax will apply to the household. If one is receiving Pension Credit, they will be unaffected.

There are currently six different rates of ‘non-dependent deductions’ – amounts removed from housing benefit according to the earnings of people aged over 18 who live in a household but are not dependent on the tenant for financial support. This will become one flat-rate ‘housing cost contribution’ that will be deducted from housing benefit. It will not apply to anyone aged under 21.

Under UC, each adult non-dependent will get their own room, but each must pay the full, flat-rate housing cost contribution – unless aged under 21 and therefore exempt.

Under UC, lodgers will not get a room allowance but any income is disregarded. They will not count as occupying a room under size criteria rules. Currently any income is taken into account and deducted pound for pound from benefit, apart from the first £20. As this income is completely disregarded under UC, my best guess is that the government expects this amount to cover any loss in both housing benefit and Universal Credit. I have a doubt about that. Taking in a lodger will also affect home contents insurance policies, potentially invalidating them or raising the premiums.

Bedroom tax will not apply in joint tenancy cases.

Until UC comes in, benefits will be protected for up to 52 weeks after death; afterwards the run-on will be three months.

And until UC comes in, tenants will receive 13 weeks’ protection where they could previously afford the rent and housing benefit has not been claimed in the previous year; afterwards, the size criteria will apply immediately.   Pre-1989 tenancies are not exempt from the bedroom tax.

Those are the facts relating to this particular benefit change. There are others which will also affect your ability to keep your home, but – concentrating on this for a moment – you’re probably already screaming “What does it MEAN?” in frustration at your screen.

If you’re on a low income, aged over 40 with children who have left home, or disabled, you could be not only slightly but severely and unfairly affected. It seems likely you will have to choose to either pay the extra amount, or move. It seems likely that I will be in this category, so be assured that I sympathise completely with everyone else in the same situation.

And there will be many, many people who are. Surveys say around a third of tenants will try to move, mainly to one-bedroom properties. This is far more than the government has anticipated in its planning.

Here’s where things get suspicious: There is a national shortage of one bedroom council and housing association homes, meaning many tenants will have no choice but to move into the more expensive private sector or stay put – even though they will not be able to afford the extra costs.

The majority will stay put, but nearly eight-tenths (80 per cent) of those are worried about going into debt, with two-fifths (40 per cent) fearing they will accumulate rent arrears.

The evidence shows that, whether you move or stay put, landlords will lose income, which in turn means evictions and homelessness will increase. This is my belief. We will see a lot of people going homeless at the same time as a lot of houses go empty.

In fact, homelessness is already on the rise – as it always is under a Conservative government. According to the National Housing Federation – the umbrella organisation for housing associations in England – there has been a leap of nearly 50 per cent in the number of families forced into B&Bs. Between January and March this year, they totalled 3,960, compared with 2,750 during the same period in 2011. That number will escalate under the new legislation.

Any fool can see that this is madness. The logical choice has to be that people, who would otherwise go homeless, should be housed in buildings that would otherwise go empty.

But we are under the heel of a government that has little to do with sanity. The sane choice – in order to keep housing benefit payments down – is to cap rents at a particular, affordable, level. This way, landlords receive a steady amount of money, tenants keep their homes, and housing benefit remains manageable. But the government cannot tolerate this as it is deemed to be unwarranted interference in the market. Never mind the fact that the market could collapse if enough homes go empty! The idea is that the steady drive to increase rents will attract people rich enough to afford them. Again, one wonders where these people are and how they will be able to pay. Also, every price bubble eventually pops, so sooner or later – again – we’ll have a lot of homeless people on the streets while buildings go empty and (eventually) derelict.

Am I painting a depressing picture? Let’s add to the misery by reminding you that housing benefit is being withdrawn for everybody aged under 25. The assumption is that they will return to the family home if they can’t afford their rent – but that is a big assumption. There may be reasons they cannot do so (I’m sure you can imagine some for yourself). what do they do then? Housing benefit itself is being capped. And then there is the Localism Act and its effect on Council Tax payments. From responses to my previous article about the so-called ‘Pickles Poll Tax’, you will be able to see that some councils will add as much as 30 per cent of the council tax bill to the costs of those tenants who currently receive full council tax benefit, regardless of whether they can afford to pay. And has anybody said anything recently about the plan to cap all benefits at £500-per-week-per-household?

If you want to call on the government to axe the bedroom tax, there is an e-petition against it: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/33438