15th February 2011
Doubts Over Future of Low Cost Housing
Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP, Gordon Henderson, has been issued with a stark warning that his constituency could face an even bigger gap in the provision of private rented housing to people on benefits due to government cuts.
At a Q&A session at Kent Science Park Mr. Henderson was asked how landlords could work with government to maintain their present levels when the government was reducing the amount paid in housing benefits.
The issue dominated the hour-long event as landlords from several companies in the towns expressed their dismay at the impact the cuts were having. Mr. Henderson replied that changes to housing benefits were introduced to bring an end to the abuses to the current system.
Mr. Henderson said that he was not aware that the housing benefit changes would have a negative impact on any family locally, but was willing to take up any specific cases that were referred to him. He also offered to have a separate meeting with local landlords to discuss the changes so that he could get a better understanding of the problems they faced.
Hasmita Reardon is owner of Reardon Properties in Sittingbourne. Speaking after the debate she said: “Our company prides itself on being able to help the people in our community who need an affordable place to live. I personally specialise in working with the homeless and women on the run from domestic violence, but these changes to housing allowance are going to have a big effect on our ability to continue providing these services.”
“By reducing the amount available in housing benefits the government is removing any incentive for us to rent our homes to unemployed or vulnerable adults. We have a strong sense of social responsibility, but we are also a privately owned business and the bottom line is that for us to maintain the level of social housing we provide at present we would have to significantly lower our rents, and that doesn’t make sound economic sense.”
“We are also concerned that under the changes rent is now paid directly to the individual rather than the landlord, which it can then be tempting to spend elsewhere.”
“I think it’s excellent that our MP is prepared to take the time to listen to what his constituents have to say, and I hope he now appreciates the severity of this situation and is able to do something positive about it.”
Mr. Henderson said afterwards:
“I always enjoy these sessions at Kent Science Park because they give me a real opportunity to hear what is affecting business in my constituency.
“I appreciate that local businesses, including housing landlords, are facing a number of challenges, which have come about because the Coalition Government has been forced to make some tough decisions in an effort to clear up the economic mess left by the previous government and these regular meetings are a good way of monitoring how the cuts are affecting people working at the employment coalface.
“For instance, I had not appreciated the difficult situation the housing benefit cuts were creating for our local landlords, which is why I have agreed to a separate meeting with them to better understand the problems they face.”
Other topics raised at the debate included the impact of large, out of town supermarkets on Swale’s town centres, the importance of skills and training and the new Local Enterprise Partnerships. The next Q&A session at Kent Science Park will be held on May 6th.