Update: Housing Summit progress and more…

We now have around 60 people registered for the Regional Housing Summit on Saturday March 12th in Leeds. They include tenants, campaigners and trade union members from Leeds, Kirklees, Sheffield, Teeside and elsewhere; workers and managers from housing associations and providers of supported housing and housing support; representatives of carers’ groups, people working with children and families, and NHS workers. We have room for plenty more – so please register, share as widely as possible, and then come and get involved! With so many people affected and deeply concerned by the attacks on social housing, benefit cuts and the rampant squalor and exploitation of the private sector, we have a real chance to build a campaign big and powerful enough to turn the tide.

Please register and read more details at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/regional-housing-summit-tickets-5324212864

Or see our Facebook event at https://www.facebook.com/events/1681813632097551/

The prospects for secure affordable housing currently are desperate: the number of rough sleepers nationally has doubled over the last 5 years, and there are 25,000 households on the council waiting list in Leeds alone – yet the government plans to force councils to sell off their most valuable properties to pay for right-to-buy sales of Housing Association homes. The year-on-year 1% reduction in social rents – of little or no benefit to tenants – has already led to huge cut-backs in Housing Associations’ plans for new building (as well as around 15% job losses in the sector).

As regards affordability, households with a combined total income of more than £30,000 will see a rise to near-market rates in their social rents – unaffordable to households on low-to-average wages. And if you thought the bedroom tax was bad, consider the impacts of the lowered household benefit cap:

An unemployed couple with three children ……. will receive at most £63 a week in housing benefit. If they rent a three-bed social home at £100 a week, they must find the £37 difference from their benefits (which are already set at subsistence level). If they cannot, they will run up arrears and face eviction and homelessness.

Similarly, a jobless single parent with four children renting the same property would need to find £58 a week from their benefits [Joe Halewood]

Of course the cap affects families in private-rented housing too, where rents are much higher, leaving a far greater shortfall for the tenants to find from their benefits – and private tenants are much easier to evict! Housing consultant Joe Halewood estimates that  245,000 households containing 805,000 children will be affected.

The benefit cap is not supposed to affect people of pension age, or those with disabilities (claiming DLA, PIP and/or ESA in the Support Group). Yet now the government is introducing a new limit on housing benefits which will affect precisely those groups, and disastrously. Capping Housing Benefit to the maximum Local Housing Allowance  rate for a given household size will mean that people on basic pension (and therefore on Housing Benefit) will be unable to meet the rents for most sheltered and supported accommodation. Just to be quite clear, the cut will not come into effect until 2018, but when it does it will affect every tenancy started from April of this year. This cut will also mean a catastrophic loss of funding for hostels, domestic violence refuges and all kinds of specialist accommodation for people with high support needs – with knock-on effects on social care, hospitals etc..

IN OTHER NEWS

  • The next Hands Off Our Homes planning meeting will be on Wednesday 2nd March at the UNISON offices on Woodhouse Lane (opposite the Fenton pub, near the universities). All welcome, call/text/email us for more info.
  • We will be speaking at the conference on housing hosted by Independent Labour Publications, on Saturday 5th March, 11am – 4pm at the Rosebowl, Leeds Beckett University. The other speakers will be Fabian Hamilton MP, co-author of “Building Homes for Britain” and Quintin Bradley, lecturer in planning and housing at Leeds Beckett University. You can register for the event (free) at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/unbalanced-britain-housing-in-crisis-tickets-20976006801?aff=es2
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