The Manchester Evening News (MEN) has reported a ‘massive’ rise in street homelessness with benefit sanctions singled out as one of the main causes.
The paper carried out an investigation into rough sleeping in the region claiming that people are living in ‘caves, old air raid shelters and under a supermarket.’ Two charities working on the frontline told the MEN that benefit sanctions are to blame for the rise in homelessness, with one citing the case of a man who had been sanctioned seven times and left unable to pay his rent. One charity worker told the paper: “Whereas before, most homeless people had benefits, now they have nothing.”
Officially the number of people sleeping rough in Greater Manchester is just 24. One local charity however claims there are around 60 street homeless people in Stockport alone, whilst local councillor Daniel Gillard told the MEN he believed around 150 people…
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Housebuilding has collapsed in most of the region – despite Government claims of a “success story”.
The number of ‘affordable homes’ being built has fallen in 13 of 17 areas since the Coalition came to power, after housing programmes were axed.
And it has plunged sharply in many areas, including in Hartlepool (down 62.5 per cent), Middlesbrough (down 59.1 per cent) and Stockton-on-Tees (down 54.5 per cent).
The lack of new homes is even more acute in North Yorkshire, in Hambleton (down 76.9 per cent), Ryedale (down 66.7 per cent) and York (down 85.2 per cent).
In Richmondshire, not a single affordable home – those available at lower rents, or for shared ownership – was completed in 2013-14.
Yet, in 2010-11, the year the Coalition came to power, 60 were built, the official figures show.
Only South Tyneside, where 1,050 affordable homes were completed last year, bucked the trend, cutting the decline across the region to 15.3 per cent.
Last week, the department for communities and local government (DCLG) claimed its record on affordable housing since 2010 was a “clear success story”.
But ministers totted up four years’ of figures to reach that tally – and the statistics for previous years reveal a different story.
Rachel Fisher, head of policy at the National Housing Federation, said: “It is nowhere near enough.
“Demand is still far exceeding supply. England needs around 240,000 new homes a year. We need to build more of the right homes, in the right place, at the right price.”
Emma Reynolds, for Labour, said: “We have repeatedly called for action on housing supply, particularly on the need for more affordable homes, but this government has failed to act.
“Under David Cameron, the number of homes built has fallen to the lowest level in peacetime since the 1920s.”
The chronic shortage of housing is an issue rising up the political agenda, with hundreds of thousands of families languishing on council waiting lists.
Meanwhile, town halls remain barred from borrowing money to build homes, as the Government relies on the private sector to step in.
But Kris Hopkins, the housing minister said: “Our affordable house-building efforts are a clear success story, with nearly 200,000 new affordable homes delivered since April 2010.
“It means families have new homes available to them, whether to rent at an affordable rate or to buy through our shared ownership schemes.”
Across England, 41,654 affordable homes were built last year – well down on the 53,172 in the year before the last general election.
Source – Northern Echo, 20 June 2014
From April this year, the UK government will cap overall spending on welfare. Chris Johnes (Oxfam) hoped this would encourage government departments to invest in long-term programmes tackling poverty to cut future spending… but the current social housing strategy seems to be aiming for exactly the opposite.
Tackling the high cost of welfare is one of the government’s top priorities. Isn’t it? Both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have repeatedly said that cutting welfare costs is essential to getting the budget deficit under control. So after freezing many benefits for working age people last year, the government has since decided it will introduce an overall cap on many benefits starting from next financial year.
This should be a spur to government departments to look at ways they can get the welfare bill down. Indeed, our experience as a charity is that the Treasury is interested at looking at how longer term preventative programmes – which help people tackle deep rooted personal problems – can be supported to cut the need for welfare spend in the future. These kinds of preventative spending could include family support, more tailored back to work schemes, expanding the supply of cheaper housing and better vocational education.
However, nobody seems to have told the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), which seems determined to continue a housing strategy for England that will further push up rents. The strategy – which doesn’t include plans for building new homes for “social rent” (ie genuinely affordable rent) – will also drive up the need for people on low incomes to draw on housing benefit to be able to afford their rent.
The reality is that the current mix of jobs and housing available means that many people in work, especially in the south east, need housing benefit to be able to pay their rent. And the DCLG’s policy is based quite deliberately on allowing the housing benefit bill to rise – it’s not their problem, it’s another department’s budget. However, it could soon become the tenants’ problem in a big way.
If the welfare spending cap is breached, then housing benefit is an obvious target – it’s one of the largest benefits covered by the cap (it costs £24bn per year) – which means the amount of housing benefit available per person could be reduced if overall welfare spend goes too high.
And if people on low incomes will no longer have their rents fully covered, then they will face their household budgets getting even more squeezed and being forced to choose between paying the rent, heating their homes or eating. In other words, severe hardship will be imposed on thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of families because different bits of government failed to work effectively together.
There is, of course, an alternative, as charities have been telling the Treasury and governments in other parts of the UK have been pursuing. This is to put proper investment in genuinely affordable social housing – it may be expensive initially, but its long-term impact on rents will save both government money and human misery in the future.
Source – Chris Johnes, Director, UK Poverty Programme, Oxfam