Government’s mishandling of housing and Housing Benefit is generating unsustainable trends

Two reports have highlighted separate trends which cannot continue side-by-side: more people are claiming Housing Benefit while fewer landlords are accepting tenants who are benefits claimants. The government bears responsibility for both of these worrying situations.

The National Housing Federation suggests that rising rents are forcing an extra 310 people a day to seek Housing Benefit as the government continues neglecting to build enough new homes. Even if high rents are the main force driving people to apply for Housing Benefit (which is contestable), the fact that these rents are levelling out and average yields are not especially high shows that landlords are trying to be fair. The real issue is that the government is failing to provide new housing and this is driving up demand.

Data from the National Landlords’ Association (NLA) shows that the number of landlords letting to those on benefits has halved to 1 in 5. It is no coincidence that the reduction in landlords letting to benefits claimants has come over a period in which the government’s flagship welfare reforms have been subject to much criticism. While Rentify initially urged patience, the continuing problems and seemingly increasing lack of transparency need to be addressed. The Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has in recent days admitted that some 700,000 claimants will not be moved onto Universal Credit by 2017 as promised, while other targets have also been abandoned. Mr Duncan Smith maintains the project is on target and within budget, which may be true and Universal Credit could still go on to achieve great things. However, little is actively being done to reassure landlords and tenants that this is happening. Indeed he has also said, “I’m not going to give any figures out. I do accept (…) that this plan is different from the original plan.” The government needs to realise that such a lack of transparency is driving the dangerous trend of landlords shying away from tenants on benefits.

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