Housing benefit system is failing Greenwich’s most vulnerable tenants

From Spencer Drury, PPC for Greenwich & Woolwich

Spencer Drury, Greenwich Councillor & Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Greenwich and Woolwich, this week issued a stark warning that Gordon Brown’s changes to housing benefit rules are harming the most vulnerable tenants and reducing the availability of affordable accommodation.
Last year, Labour Ministers introduced a new ‘Local Housing Allowance’, with housing benefit being direct to the tenant rather than to the landlord. But vulnerable tenants often struggle to manage their finances and spend their rent money on other things. Homeless charity, Crisis, has warned that this can result in rent arrears and eventually homelessness.
Landlords who were previously happy to take on tenants on housing benefit have suffered from non-payment of rent. Many landlords now routinely refuse to let to Local Housing Allowance claimants. According to the National Landlords Association, half of all landlords are reluctant to lend to tenants on Local Housing Allowance.
13,486 people in Greenwich are on local housing waiting lists, and a sizeable proportion of them are on housing benefit. Housing waiting lists have risen by 75% per cent under this Labour Council since 1997 – reflecting the shortage of affordable accommodation.
Conservatives have pledged to change Labour’s failed policy. Tenants will be able to choose whether to have their housing allowance paid direct to their landlord. This will increase the availability of quality low-cost housing.
Spencer said:
“Labour’s new housing benefit rules are failing the most vulnerable in our society. Landlords are put off from renting to those on benefit, slashing the availability of decent places to live. Some tenants struggle to manage their finances, using up their benefit money by rent pay day. They get into arrears and trouble as a result.
“Tenants should have greater choice, and be free to specify that their housing benefit should go direct to the landlord. This will help those most in need.”