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GORDON HENDERSON MP

FOR SITTINGBOURNE & SHEPPEY

Vulnerable tenants hit

Shock figures released this week reveal that changes to housing benefit rules are harming the most vulnerable tenants in Swale and reducing the availability of affordable accommodation.

Last year, the Government introduced a new ‘Local Housing Allowance’, with housing benefit being sent 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.

In Swale there are over 4000 people on the local housing waiting list, and a sizeable proportion of them are on housing benefit. Housing waiting lists in the area have risen by 212 per cent since 1997 when Labour came into power – 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.

Mr Henderson said:
“Labour’s new housing benefit rules are failing the most vulnerable in our society and have hit people in Swale particularly hard. It is quite alarming that we have seen a bigger increase in the number of people on the waiting list than anywhere else in Kent, despite a huge increase in the number of houses being built in the area.

“It is quite obvious that 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.”

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