More working people in Tyneside than ever before are claiming housing benefit to get by despite being in full-time jobs.
Around 15.5% of households that claim housing welfare are in work and bring home a regular salary, a figure which has doubled since 2008.
The statistics have been described today by the National Housing Federation (NHF) as evidence of an ‘affordability crisis’ in the region’s housing sector.
Monica Burns, the organisation’s regional affairs manager in the North East, said:
“The property market isn’t working and will only get worse for working people, local families and the next generation if we don’t take action.
“Building the right houses in the right places, and improving the ones that are already there is integral to creating stronger communities where people want to stay.”
The NHF’s research shows that the average person in the region spends £482 a month on rent, a quarter of their monthly income.
In Newcastle a monthly private rent averages out at £478, in North Tyneside £528 and in Gateshead £510.
Nationally middle income households of between around £20,000 and £30,000 are making two out of three new claims.
Ms Burns added:
“This is the new phenomenon that working people are claiming housing benefit. This is hard-working and people in respected jobs who still can’t make ends meet.”
The NHF’s report North East Broken Market, Broken Dreams also reveals that despite having the lowest average house price in England at £141,210, the North East also has the lowest salaries, meaning workers in the region are expected to pay six times the average income to eventually own a home.
In the rest of the country people are expected to pay 3.5 times their income to own a home.
The difficulty in getting on the property ladder is felt most acutely in Northumberland where there is the largest gap between the average house prices at £172,640 and the average salary of £23.863.
In Newcastle the average house price is £169,887, in Gateshead it’s £137,823 and in North Tyneside it is £153,768.
The average house price in England is £251,879, and the average salary is £26,520.
While the housing crisis in the South of England is characterised by a shortage of properties, in the North East Ms Burns said housing is far more than ‘a numbers game’.
The NHF would like to see the next Government take action on the North East’s housing situation, which they argue is part of a larger community crisis, where many people are living in poverty and are unable to access secure jobs.
They are backing the Homes for Britain campaign which seeks to pressure politicians into taking housing in the UK seriously by getting them to commit to reversing the housing shortage within a generation.
They also seek to lobby the Government to allow a housing associations to set their own rents and create a national Housing and Infrastructure bank.
Ms Burns said:
“It’s taken us a generation to get into this housing crisis and will take us a generation to get out of it. Successive governments have failed to tackle the country’s major housing challenges and we are calling on the next Government to commit to end the housing crisis within a generation and to publish a long term plan within a year of taking office, detailing how they will do this.”
She said the number of empty homes in the region is often used as a reason not to consider more new builds, but it was essential for the North East to build homes where they were needed – and former pit villages in Northumberland and County Durham were not always the right places.
She said: “Quite often there is not a housing need.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 14 Oct 2014
A study by a campaigning group called Home Truths reports that a housing shortage and stagnant wages are forcing increasing numbers of those in work to apply for help with housing costs in order to keep a roof over their heads.
The North East has seen a 108% rise, since 2009, in those in work who are claiming housing benefit, and also the smallest increase nationally in new business start-ups.
Private rents and house prices are projected to rise by 25% and 17% respectively by 2020.
Monica Burns, North East external affairs manager for the National Housing Federation – “We hear a lot about ‘making work pay’, but employment opportunities are scarce in parts of the North East and wages are lower than in other parts of the country.
“This is having a knock-on impact on people in work, with more and more hard working families being forced to rely on housing benefit to help pay for the roof over their heads.”
Of course, we still get idiots suggesting that we should have lower regional wages. But then, those idiots are usually (a) Tories, who know they’re never going to be in power here, (b) in London or the South East, and (c) never likely to be in a position to have to accept lower regional wages themselves…more’s the pity.
Thousands of North East families are facing a bedroom tax bill of almost £20m.
According to new figures, by August – four months after the controversial spare room subsidy policy was introduced – nearly 30,000 of the region’s households had been hit by the new fees.
Each faces losing out on an average of £679.14 in housing benefits each year – though the picture is worse for people in County Durham, Newcastle and Sunderland, which are among the top 10 hardest-hit areas in the UK.
The National Housing Federation claims that 51% of households affected by the bedroom tax were unable to pay their rent between April and June. Their North East external affairs manager Monica Burns called for the policy to be repealed.
“These new Government figures show that the bedroom tax is affecting thousands of people in the North East – for many, there isn’t even anywhere for them to downsize to. There simply aren’t enough smaller social homes available, and the cost of private rented housing is rising.
“The North East is particularly hard-hit, with the highest proportion of people living in social housing affected by the bedroom tax in the country. The Government says discretionary housing payments will help those who cannot downsize, but there isn’t anywhere near enough money.
“The bedroom tax is trapping many people in homes they can no longer afford and where they are struggling. It is unfair, badly designed, and must be repealed.”
A spokesman for the Department for Work & Pensions ( DWP) said that it has given an extra £5,382,375 in funding to councils to make discretionary payments to help those struggling to pay.
Northumberland has received £416,365, Newcastle £685,271, Durham £883,089, Gateshead £373,518, North Tyneside £331,993, South Tyneside £305,483 and Sunderland £658,202.
Hang on – so the government imposes this tax on the poorest sector of society, presumably to raise money. Then, via the DWP, gives over 5 million of it back in order to fund people who cant pay it. Who then give it straight back to the government. Eh ?
I make no claims to being a financial expert (which, on recent evidence of the Co-Op Bank, should put me in the frame for a top job in banking), but I cant help thinking “why not just scrap the tax ?”
It doesn’t seem to raise much cash, is focused on the worst off, and is hardly a vote winner. Perhaps the government should put its mind to all those non-tax-paying corporations and super-rich tax dodgers instead ? But I guess bullies always go for easy targets.
Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell (Lab) –
“The bedroom tax is raised by constituents time and time again, who are being penalised for a situation not of their own making and who simply can’t afford to pay.
“These new figures illustrate the appalling impact this pernicious policy is having on many thousands of families across the region – with the extra £680 per year an almost impossible ask for people on low incomes already struggling with a cost of living crisis.
“The policy makes no sense. There are nowhere near sufficient smaller properties for people to move to, and it therefore does nothing to address overcrowding.
“Or – for the thousands of disabled people affected – they clearly need an additional bedroom as it can often be totally impractical for a couple to share in these circumstances.”
Oh, if only I believed Labour would rectify the situation if they win the next election… sadly I no longer have any faith in that direction.