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Open Letter: Hands Off Tenants – Withdraw Housing Benefit proposals

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An Open Letter to Nick Clegg and David Cameron from housing activists
Issue 2210

Cuts in housing benefit set out in the Budget will make the poorest pay for the housing crisis. Unaffordable housing costs are the problem not the level of housing benefit. We calls on the Coalition Government to withdraw these proposals and increase the supply of council and other secure affordable rented homes.

Punitive cuts in housing benefit set out in the June ‘emergency’ Budget will hit council, housing association and other private sector tenants, de-stabilise settled communities and enforce social exclusion, creating no-go areas for tenants across Britain. The National Housing Federation warn of thousands facing eviction, and homelessness could rise by over 200,000.

Government plans to reduce housing benefit by 10% for job seekers who have been out of work for more than 12 months means that from April 2013 unemployed people will have to make up the shortfall from their £65 Job Seekers Allowance. People should not be forced to leave their homes and communities. In a period of rising unemployment with growing housing waiting lists, overcrowding and homelessness where are the jobs or homes to move to?

Government also warned it will seek to reduce housing benefits to council and other tenants of working age who are thought to be over-housed. Work & Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith has spoken of ‘tons of elderly people’ who should be encouraged to move out of their family homes.

Average Housing Benefit is under £84 a week. Local Housing Allowance already fails to cover the housing costs of over half of all claimants who have to make up an average of £100 a month. Even housing association and council rents are in danger of becoming unaffordable for those in low paid work. High housing costs, too high for people in work, are why housing benefit is needed.

The shortage of suitable affordable homes, and policies designed to keep housing costs high, are to blame for high housing benefit bills. We call on this Government to:

  • withdraw these proposals and consult with tenants about housing benefit reform
  • boost public house building programmes
  • increase protection to all tenants through rent regulation and secure tenancies.

Signed by

John Rolfe chair Camden Federation of Tenants and Residents Associations
Q Bradley, on behalf of Leeds Tenants Federation

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