The policies of the current government are forcing many to move into sub-standard private accommodation according to a new report issued by IPPR North (Institute for Public Policy and Research), a charitable think tank.
According to the government, housing benefit is costing £20 billion per year and is one of the biggest welfare spends (excluding pensions). However, £9.3 billion of that spend is paid to private landlords.
More and more poorer families and those on benefits are forced to rent in the private sector as the bedroom tax bites into the finances of households being unable to afford the cost of an additional bedroom.
Problems faced by low income renters in the private sector include the insecurity of the standard six month rental contract, and the unpredictable rise in rents. The cost of renting in the private sector is at an all-time high (according to housing charity Shelter), with the average private rent costing in excess of £700 per month, leading to further financial hardship for people on low incomes, often taking in excess of 60% of their income.
The IPPR report shows that nearly 1 million vulnerable households, many of whom are in receipt of housing benefit, are now living in inadequate accommodation. In total, over 3 million vulnerable households are now living in the private rented sector.
Over one third of privately rented homes fail to meet the Decent Homes standard. The report shows that the number of people living in privately rented accommodation and receiving housing benefit has risen by 900,000 in the last 10 years, as the role of local authorities as landlords has halved.
The Decent Homes Standard states that all social housing should be free of health and safety hazards, be in a “reasonable state of repair”, have “reasonably modern kitchens, bathrooms and boilers”, and be “reasonably insulated”. Private landlords do not have to meet the Decent Homes Standard, but must meet minimum legal requirements on safety. However, many private rented homes remain in appalling states of repair, with mould and damp on the walls, poor central heating or insulation and cramped conditions.
Ed Cox, IPPR North Director, said “The ever-rising cost of rent subsidy for those on housing benefit and the growth of an under-regulated private rented sector, means more taxpayers’ money than ever before is being paid to private landlords for substandard housing.
“Our research shows that people on the lowest incomes are not only the most likely to live in sub-standard housing but they are also the least likely to have these problems addressed by their landlord. They are also less likely to take action against their landlord for fear of the consequences.
“Local authorities are best placed to identify and determine the properties that most need attention. With powers largely in their possession, local authorities should establish not-for-profit agencies to act as a guardian and gatekeeper for tenants living in the private rented sector.”
Government welfare ‘reforms’ are not finished according to David Cameron being interviewed on the BBC’s ‘The Andrew Marr Show’, with housing benefit being a specific target for further cuts.
With the ever increasing cost of private sector renting and the reduction in local authority housing stock, it means a grim future for people on low incomes who are trying to establish a stable environment for their families.
The likelihood of the situation changing in the near future is near to zero as the government continues in pursuing their social engineering agenda.