Housing : Social Tenants / BTL & HB Problems / Shortages / Grenfell Tower Fallout

Discuss news stories and political issues that affect carers.
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Now we are really getting down to the nitty gritty ?

https://www.theguardian.com/society/201 ... it-rollout

Landlord threatens mass evictions ahead of universal credit rollout.

Lincolnshire property firm sends formal notice of possession to all tenants in case universal credit leads to rent arrears.

A Lincolnshire property company has defended threatening all of its tenants with eviction if they fail to pay their rent because of delays in receiving universal credit payments, sending all tenants pre-emptive notices ahead of the rollout of the welfare reform.

The letter from GAP Property in Grimsby was highlighted by Jeremy Corbyn in his weekly clash with Theresa May at prime minister’s questions. Corbyn said tenants of the property management company faced the prospect of being made homeless before Christmas. May said she would look into the “particular case” raised by the Labour leader.

GAP Property said the changes would affect the vast majority of its tenants and it needed to take action to avoid a slew of rent arrears, which could put them out of business.

The company’s owner, Guy Piggott, told the Guardian the letter was not intended to be threatening and said he was pleased it had been highlighted by Corbyn to the prime minister.

“We are not planning to throw people out, but the prime minister should read this and recognise the problems, and see how people are not going to be able to feed themselves,” he said.

Universal credit is due to be rolled out across north-east Lincolnshire from 13 December and new applicants will have a minimum six-week wait for their first payments, though many have reported longer delays.

Piggott said serving the notice now would mean that tenants had already been given the mandatory two months’ notice, so could be evicted as soon as their rent payments fell behind.

He said the rollout had forced him to take radical action, saying his company would be “bust in three months” if tenants were unable to pay their rents because of the six-week wait for universal credit payments, especially as he expected many of them would take on temporary work over Christmas and then be faced with a long wait when they reapply for benefits.

The letter from the agency says it is “not intended to cause alarm, rather to inform you of the problems that could very well occur during the rollout of universal credit”.

It calls the flagship welfare reform “an extraordinary event that requires both you and us to take extraordinary measures”.

It tells tenants: “GAP Property cannot sustain arrears at the potential levels universal credit could create (this affects the vast majority of our tenants), therefore we find it necessary to issue your Notice Seeking Possession … that has been enclosed to be exercised only in the event that you fail to pay your rent in accordance with the terms of your tenancy (in full and on the due date).”

The letter warns tenants will face eviction if there is a delay in payment to the landlord. “IF YOU DO NOT PAY YOUR RENT WE WILL HAVE NO OPTION BUT TO ASK YOU TO LEAVE AND RECOVER LOSSES FROM YOUR GUARANTOR,” it writes, in capital letters.

The letter also includes a formal notice of possession as well as a guide to universal credit for tenants.

The agency was established more than 30 years ago by Piggott, who is also chair of the local Humber Landlords Association, and says it has a “wide range of properties from rooms in shared houses, flats, to five-bedroom detached houses”.

Piggott said the majority of his tenants were on an average household income of about £17,000 a year. “People are already living hand to mouth. We have spoken to a number of tenants and they do not know this is coming. They might not even know what universal credit is,” he said.

“At best, if they need to wait six weeks to be paid, it will be the end of February before it comes, and by then they might have spent the money they had on feeding their families or heating their homes,” he said.

Piggott said many landlords would soon refuse to take people who were on universal credit. “A lot of landlords are now saying, enough is enough,” he said.

Quoting from the letter during PMQs, Corbyn said: “Will the prime minister pause universal credit so it can be fixed? Or does she think it is right to put thousands of families through Christmas in the trauma of knowing they are about to be evicted because they are in rent arrears because of universal credit?”

In response, May said she wanted to “look at the issue of this particular case” but said the government wanted people to be able to manage their own budgets.

“There have been concerns raised over the issue of people being able to manage their budgets to pay rent,” she said. “What we see after four months is that those on universal credit in rent arrears has fallen by one-third.”

May’s spokesman later said she had not as yet been sent a copy of the letter from Jeremy Corbyn’s office. “The PM said that she would hope to get the letter from the leader of the opposition, and we will look into it and see what we can find out,” he said.

Okay ... just imagine if the action proposed was rolled out across the country ... in line with the UC rollout ?

What do you predict as to the likely outcome ?

Need I add anything more ?

The perfect storm ...
More on the above article ... local rag , The Grimsby Telegraph :

http://www.grimsbytelegraph.co.uk/news/ ... ion-781838

Gap Property director defends eviction notices saying 'we had no other choice',

Guy Piggott, director of Gap Property Grimsby says that the intention of the notices was to warn tenants to prepare for benefit changes,

The director of Gap Property has defended its decision to send residents pre-emptive eviction notices ahead of the Universal Credit roll-out.

He said: "We had no other choice, my business could go bust".

Gap Property sent letters to most of its tenants last week informing them that they had been served a two month eviction notice ahead of the Universal Credit roll-out, saying that if they fall behind on their rent they will be asked to leave the property and that losses will be recovered from their guarantor.

The letters have come as a shock to residents and local officials, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn even highlighting the case at today's Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons.

Now the director of the company Guy Piggott has defended his decision to the Grimsby Telegraph, saying that if he had not made this decision to send the letters then his company could be left in a dire financial state in the new year, and that the intention was simply to warn tenants of the upcoming benefit changes so that they are able to plan ahead and prepare.

Mr Piggott has also said that his company is not wanting to evict anyone as his business is about letting properties to people who need them, not building up a portfolio of empty homes, and also levied criticism at the Department for Work and Pensions for lack of prior planning and knowledge about Universal Credit and how it will affect tenants and landlords.

He said: "The main reason that we have sent this letter to tenants is to warn them about the upcoming changes in benefits so that they are able to plan ahead to prevent their rent going into arrears, because if that is the case we will have to ask them to leave the property.

"We have been in contact with the DWP who have told us about the six week payment delay for people moving on to the system, but we are aware of cases where this has taken much longer, and as a business we are not in a position to sustain going without rental payments for six weeks or longer.

"The letters have been sent out pre-emptively to warn residents, and also include information to help them understand the new benefits system, because if we wait until the new year to serve the notices when people have fallen behind with rent, it could put us in a position where we have missed out on payments for up to six months, and it will be my business the bank are repossessing, not just tenants being evicted."

He also stated that while his company may be aware of tenants who receive housing benefits, they do not know about those who get the other five benefits that will be included in Universal Credit, and felt that if people on these benefits have payments delayed they may need to use rent money or savings to pay for food and heating over the Christmas period, which he felt should take priority, and wants them to plan ahead so they do not go into arrears.

While admitting that the letter could be confused by residents for an eviction notice, he said this wasn't his intention, but his business had been put "between a rock and a hard place".

Mr Piggott also said that his company were only informed of the Universal Credit roll-out date last week, and if he was given a more advanced warning they would have pursued this in a slightly different manner.

He also criticised the DWP for lack of knowledge and understanding about Universal Credit, as they did not appear to understand the normal tenant/landlord relationship.

"A woman from the DWP came in to speak with me as I was informing her that we planned to send out this letter, and she actually said to me 'could you not use tenants' deposits to cover the rent', which is not something we can actually do, as deposits are stored securely by a third party and cannot be legally accessed until a tenant leaves, and we do not actually take deposits for our properties, we use guarantors."

"She also told me that we will not be informed if a tenant has switched to Universal Credit, the tenant must tell us, and they won't even know until the job centre contacts them, putting us in a difficult position where we are unable to plan ahead effectively.

"If we did nothing we would be in trouble, and we got these letters out as quick as we could, and I would urge all my tenants to lobby their MPs to push for changes to the system."

Universal Credit will be rolled out in Grimsby on Monday, December 13, and will replace the following six benefits:

Child Tax Credit
Working Tax Credit
Employment Support Allowance
Jobseeker's Allowance
Income Support
Housing Benefit

The Letter :


That perfect storm gathers strength ... 150 mph minimum ... 200 mph by Easter , 2018 ?

Just one letting agent ... how many more ???

Said letting agents are in for a nasty shock as detailed earlier on this thread.

UC also covers several other benefits and allowances which any worker on a low wage receives ... !
Building social housing ?

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/po ... 9371.html.

Council housing numbers hit lowest point since records began.

New figures come days before Autumn Budget in which Chancellor Philip Hammond is expected to announce raft of new housing policies.

The number of council homes in Britain has fallen to a new record low, with fewer properties to rent from local authorities than at any point in almost 50 years, analysis of official data by The Independent has revealed.

Stock of council houses across England, Scotland and Wales has dropped to just two million and has now more than halved in the last 20 years, according to new government statistics. The figures do not include Northern Ireland because it stopped collecting the data in 2014.

More than 170,000 council homes have been lost since 2010 alone. The majority are likely to be properties for social rent, which are offered to local people at around half the cost of private market rents.

The loss is the result of a range of factors, but commentators have especially highlighted the Right to Buy policy that sees council house tenants given a state subsidy of up to £100,000 to help them buy their home.

Despite repeated promises from ministers, only one new home is being built to replace every five sold under Right to Buy.

The number of council houses in Britain has now fallen by 69 per cent since the policy was introduced in 1980 – down from 6.5 million. It had risen continuously up to that point.

The Local Government Association (LGA) warned earlier this week that enough homes to house the population of Oxford have been sold off under Right to Buy since 2012. – 54,581 homes have been sold but just 12,472 built to replace them.

As the number of council homes has fallen, more and more people have been forced to rent from private landlords and pay rents that are, on average, up to 50 per cent more expensive.

The number of private renters has doubled in the last 20 years and now stands at 5.4 million. It has increased by a million – or 23 per cent – since 2010.

The latest figures paint a picture of a failing housing market and comes ahead of next weeks’ Autumn Budget, in which the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, is expected to announce a raft of new measures designed to tackle the housing crisis.

Ministers have come under mounting pressure to reverse policies that have seen the number of new social homes being built plummet by 97 per cent since 2010. The total number of homes built by councils across Britain totalled just 1,840 last year, although this was the second highest since 2012.

Many more council homes are forecast to be privatised as a result of measures in the 2016 Housing and Planning Act, which forces councils to sell off their most valuable properties and extends the Right to Buy to housing association properties.

Since 2011, government ministers have also mandated the building of “affordable” homes, which are around 30 per cent more expensive, instead of social homes.

At the same time, state funding for new social housing has plummeted and grants to help councils build homes have dried up.

Sajid Javid, the Communities Secretary, last month promised a “complete rethink of our approach to social housing” after the Grenfell Tower tragedy that killed 71 people.

Theresa May has vowed to make house-building her “personal mission” and on Thursday promised that the Government “will be going further to ensure that we build more homes, more quickly”.

Commenting on the latest housing figures, Councillor Martin Tett, the LGA’s housing spokesman, said: “There is no way to solve our chronic housing shortage without a renaissance in council house building. For that to happen, councils must have new freedoms to invest in new housing that would quickly generate huge returns for public services and local economies. If councils were free to borrow against their housing assets, they could build the homes that our communities desperately need.

“The Chancellor has an opportunity to go down in the history books as the Chancellor who allowed an entire generation of affordable homes to be created, by allowing councils the freedom to borrow to build. We encourage him to take this opportunity in the Autumn Budget next Wednesday.”

John Healey, Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, said ministers must act to ensure homes sold under Right to Buy are fully replaced.

“After seven years of failure on housing, Conservative Ministers have no plan to fix the housing crisis,” he said.

“The government is forcing councils to sell off homes without any prospect of replacing them. Despite promising ‘one-for-one’ replacement, the reality is only one council home has been replaced for every five sold off under the right-to-buy.

“Labour would build 100,000 genuinely affordable homes to rent and buy a year, and undertake the biggest council housebuilding programme in at least 30 years to build the homes the country needs.”

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman insisted that since 2010, more council housing has been built than in the previous 13 years.

He said: “Affordable housing remains the Government’s priority. Just a few weeks ago we increased the affordable housing budget to over £9bn to deliver a wide range of affordable housing, including social rent homes, by March 2021.

“The new funding will support councils and housing associations to build more genuinely affordable homes, in areas of acute affordability pressure, where families are struggling with the costs of rent, and some are at risk of homelessness.”

When it comes to the blame game , this Issue can be traced back 50 / 60 years ... even further.

No politician / political party can escape blame !!!

A roof over one's head ... as basic as eating and heating ... as we all know in CarerLand and CareeLand ?
The forthcoming " Pantomine " starring the BTL landlords and benefit claiming tenants is set to follow the UC rollout as it makes an appearance on many new manors over the next 12 months.

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2017/ ... sal-credit

Just one case ... out of several tens of thousands ?

Landlady left with £9,500 rent arrears by tenant on universal credit.

Property owner says she will not rent to recipients again – as fears rise more will follow suit

A Croydon-based landlady has vowed never again to let her property “to anyone on universal credit” after the tenant installed by the council was switched to the new benefit and disappeared owing her around £9,500 in rent.

Amira Khan* says she feels let down, angry and “in debt to everyone” as a result of Croydon council being one of the first to adopt the government’s flagship universal credit scheme, whose rollout is proving controversial.

Until now, much of the criticism of the benefit has focused on tenants being evicted for rent arrears following delays in payments. But Khan’s case shines a light on the damage the rollout could inflict on landlords and their future willingness to accept tenants in receipt of it. This week, Lincolnshire property company GAP Property threatened all its tenants with eviction if they failed to pay their rent because of delays in universal credit payments. The scheme is about to rolled out in the area.

Khan, who owns two flats and says the rent they generate is her only source of income, took on the tenant – a single mother – in 2013 after being given verbal assurances by Croydon council staff that the rent of £868 per month would be covered by housing benefit.

She says the council drew up the tenancy agreement, also signed by a staff member. The landlady says all was well until January this year when the rent was not paid for the first time. When she approached the local authority she was told that it was no longer paying her tenant’s rent as the tenant was claiming universal credit. But the tenant told Khan her payments had been delayed.

At this point, the health of Khan’s husband, for whom she had been a long-term carer, worsened and he died a few weeks later. While trying to cope with his death, she says she tried to chase the rent arrears but to no avail.

In May her lawyer sent the tenant a formal request for payment of arrears and, after no response, an eviction notice was sent. The tenant countered this by saying she was being harassed and threatened to call the police.

In June, Khan learned that the tenant had been paid the back rent by universal credit staff. As it had not been passed on to her, Khan was told to fill in a UC47 form that allows landlords to claim rent arrears from the Department for Work and Pensions, which administers the benefit. She says she sent this in twice, but was later told it had not been processed as staff did not have the tenant’s national insurance number. Then the tenant disappeared, leaving the flat in a dreadful state, according to Khan.

The landlady says she is owed around £9,500 in rent and has had to spend £2,500 on repairing damage to the flat. “The whole thing has been dreadful and I feel let down,” Khan says. “The council who got me the tenant can’t or won’t help, and dealing with the new people is terrible. I know one thing – I will never have anything to do with anyone on universal credit again. I feel really angry about it all.”

A Croydon council spokesman said: “Housing benefit rules allow councils to transfer tenants’ payments direct to private landlords to help prevent arrears. As in this case, councils are not allowed to get involved in rent payments once the tenant moves to universal credit, which is run by the DWP.”

The council says it has suffered its own rent arrears problem since the new benefit was introduced. In February it said its rent collection rates had fallen from 91% to 59% for claimants. It has warned that without changes the system could have a devastating effect as it is rolled out over the next few months.

Heather Spurr, lead policy officer on universal credit at Shelter, says the homeless charity fears more landlords will follow Khan’s lead and refuse to take tenants who receive the credit. “Landlords refusing to take tenants in receipt of housing benefit isn’t a new phenomenon, but there is evidence that problems around the credit are exacerbating this,” she says. “More landlords are deciding they don’t want the hassle.

A DWP spokesperson says: “Under universal credit, people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than the old system. Over time people adjust to managing monthly payments and reduce their arrears. The majority of people are comfortable managing their money upfront but budgeting advice, benefit advances and direct rent payments to landlords can be provided for those who need it.”

The festive season ... a misnomer for many carers ... will shortly be with us.

For many benefit claiming tenants , no room at the Inn ... unless they fork out for Travelodge ?

I wonder if Trussells will now move into the B&B sector ... ????????????




Not quite so bad for the few that can recall these days ?


1963 ... doesn't time fly !

Rent Act 1957 being the starting gun.

A different sort of crisis ... this time without the physical threats ... or , perhaps , a different kind of threat but just as potent ???

Perhaps , even , Cathy's own grandchildren are suffering the same fate ?



Next year's Annual Survey ... a whole section on housing would not amiss ?

Would be " Nice " to know just how great an Issue this is for carers ... if only a couple of thousand who will respond ?
Even being actually homeless has additional problems on certain manors ?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-st ... e-42024072

Stoke-on-Trent homeless would risk £1k fine in tent ban plan.


For once , the headline says it all.

So much for the local Shelter for looking after the homeless with providing a roof . of sorts , over their heads ?

Perhaps the LA will grant planning permission for a new " Tent Town ? " ... better accomodation than " Cardboard City " ?


Some LAs will have no option ... Grimsby for example ... previous posting for the full sp on that one !

How about Westminister Council ... nice bit of green space , ideal for a food bank and small tent town ...
right next door to the local circus :


For a short time , not even that damn clock chiming on the hour !!!!

Be VERY wary of the local street gang ... number one for preying on the most vunerable :


A tax on " Benefits in kind " ... deductions made from future benefits whenever a claimant needs a food bank ???

Watch this space ...


In medieval times , a village / town with a church ... surrounded by graves of the recently departed.

Fast forward to 2017 ... new developments.

Food bank in place of a church ... surrounded by tents housing the homeless instead of graves ... well , graves of a different kind ?

Perhaps one of the new kind on the spot where Grenfell Tower once stood ?

Yes , we have come a long way since those dark days ... haven't we ... ???

Even risking transportation to the colonies for catching fish in the river without the Lord of the Manor's permission.

Canada ... a lot colder in the winter ... and the majority of homes are built of ... wood ... winter deaths a fraction of ours.

What do the Canadians know that we don't ???

20,000 + last year ... UC rollout ... predictions for this winter ? ... weather forecasts don't look too promising ? ... nor do the all round increases in energy costs ?

How many readers would now jump at that chance ... given the tough immigration rules in those former colonies of ours ????

For some , servitude will never stop ... as a 19th. century deportee used as slave labour or as a modern day family carer ?
One headline from the BBC web site today :

Budget 2017: Plans to build 300,000 homes a year.

He said it was "not acceptable" that young people find it so hard to buy a home, and promised to set out how the government would keep its "pledge to the next generation".

Sounds fine ... but ?

How many readers currently renting would also " Find it difficult " if their BTL lanlord refused to renew their tenancy as he / she was no longer willing to let to " Benefit claimants ? "

Some simple maths on seeking a new abode to rent ... assuming , of course , one can find one with a more supportive BTL landlord :

3 months rent in advance ... say £ 450 per month ... £ 1,350
1 month's rent possibily on moving in day ... £ 450
Letting agent's fees and other bits ... £ 250
Moving costs .... £ 200
New furniture / appliances .... £ 300

That's on Worksop figues ... double / triple in other areas ?

Okay , how many have a minimum of a spare £ 2,550 doing nothing ... even based on those conservative figures ?

No ? Need to borrow ?

From whom , and at what rate ?

Any credit reference agency will throw up " Benefit Claimant " ... lend at your own risk !

Outgoings on new abode higher than before ?

Now add in repayments on that loan ?

A disaster waiting to happen ... and spreading rapidly across the country.

Okay Mr. Hammond , Chancellor of the Exchequer ... what help is there for these people ?

Answer will fit nicely on the back of a postage stamp !

And no , a tent from certain branches of Shelter not a good idea.

On certain manors , a £ 1,000 fine if pitching within sight of the local populace !
Benefit claimants ... a VERY useful guide from Shelter on how to duck and dive IF the potential landlord does not like the prospect of letting to you ... VITAL READ given what's happening out there as I type :

https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_ ... ng_benefit

How to rent when a landlord won't accept housing benefit

Some private landlords don't want to rent to tenants who claim housing benefit.

Follow these four steps to convince them to rent to you.

1. Explain your housing history

Prepare what you are going to say to the landlord or agent when you contact them about their property
Don't start the conversation by asking if the landlord accepts people on benefits
Begin by explaining why you want to live in their property, and why you would be a good tenant
Offer to send a record of your rental history and references from previous landlords

2. Prove you can pay the rent

Show wage slips or letters confirming that you can claim housing benefit
Offer to pay more than one month's rent in advance
Provide a 'guarantor'. This is usually a friend or family member who is prepared to pay the rent if you can't
Ask the council to pay your housing benefit directly to your landlord

3. Ask someone to negotiate for you

If you are not confident enough to negotiate with a landlord or agent, ask a friend, colleague, family member or advice worker for help.

4. Find landlords who accept housing benefit[

Your local council may keep a list of private landlords who accept tenants on housing benefit. Ask their housing options or similar service.

Some websites list properties where housing benefit will be accepted.

Property Adzuna – look for 'DSS accepted' as an exact phrase in Advance Search

Spare Room – scroll down to the bottom of the search form and select 'DSS OK'

DSS Move – search the nearest large town to you but be aware that some searches will return no results


Good luck ... you'll need a lot more than that in many areas !
Busy this morning ... an insider's view on UC and it's effect on housing :

https://www.theguardian.com/public-lead ... fare-cuts.

Universal credit creates a conveyor belt of desperate people we staff can't help.

I work on housing benefit for the council and see so many people I cannot help because their path through the benefits system is blocked at every turn.

I work in the housing benefit section of my council’s customer service team and my heart drops whenever I see young single women walking through our doors.

My local authority is one of the areas trialling universal credit. Most new claims are from single, newly-unemployed people so they tend to be young people.

Officially, once the Department for Work and Pensions has said someone qualifies for universal credit, from the moment they put in the claim they are nothing to do with our council-administered housing benefit anymore and must speak only to the DWP from then on.

This has put young women on a conveyor belt of desperate people I see, but cannot help. I recently saw a young woman who was in the middle of her six-week wait for her first payment and, in the meantime, had no money coming in.

She has no family to support her, has previously been a victim of domestic violence and her request for an advanced payment of universal credit hasn’t been issued yet. I could only say I’m so sorry, and offer her a voucher for the food bank. But she didn’t have enough money to get the bus to the food bank; she asked if a parcel could be dropped off to her.

I see so many people who I cannot help in any way, because the path is blocked for them at every turn by them being eligible for universal credit, and we are not equipped to deal with their situation. The training offered by the DWP to local authorities is largely focused on how good this new benefit is for welfare reform, and doesn’t give any practical advice on how to deal with people during their waiting time or even when they get their award.

We can’t help the landlords who contact us either. They want a reason why we aren’t paying them their tenant’s housing benefit. We tell them it’s because their tenant is moving on to universal credit, and it’s nothing to do with us from now on. Payments no longer automatically go directly to the landlord, and we’re already seeing people evicted from their homes for being in rent arrears as a result of all the delays

At the same time we continue to grapple with the old benefits system too, but staff training on that has taken a backseat. Our team has not grown, but the number of people claiming has increased exponentially since 2010. It’s putting a huge strain on the service, and means we resort to just getting through as many claimants as possible, with no real compassion. People become numbers on a screen and telephone calls an attempt to put a 20-minute, tear-filled conversation into a concise note for the assessor to pick up.

The people who assess universal credit claims are employed by a private company, a partner of the council, and have no contact with the people claiming housing benefit.

This chain means that when people call asking questions that are more involved than I can manage, I have to put a note through to ask an assessor to write to them explaining why the decision has been made. This can take two weeks to be completed. If we need an answer there and then, we have a so-called emergency line that we can call to speak to an assessor. But for the person claiming, using the last of their phone credit on trying get an answer about how they’re going to pay their rent this month, the time it takes is still too long.

I tell people to seek advice in other places, such as Citizens Advice, knowing full well that they have case loads and waiting times equivalent to or worse than ours.

It’s not always this bad, but I can’t help but think of the people who have been so utterly let down by the system that is supposed to protect them from poverty. That sticks with you for a long time.

More bold than normal ... that in itself should tell any reader something ???

2018 ... Sad New World ?

Just try changing SAD to ANGRY ... not many reading this thread would argue against the inevitable ???

Inhabitants of both CarerLand and CareeLand ?

Swept along with the tidal wide !!!
Ground Zero .... Newcastle-upon-Tyne ... home to the Magpies ... and I , Daniel Blake :

https://www.theguardian.com/society/201 ... sal-credit

What England needs is more affordable houses, not universal credit.

The botched rollout of universal credit has led to £1.3m in council rental arrears in Newcastle, the city where I, Daniel Blake was set. Ministers are making the housing crisis worse.

Across the road from where Daniel Blake pleaded for fairness with jobcentre staff in Ken Loach’s 2016 film, a real human drama is unfolding in Newcastle upon Tyne’s Citizens Advice Bureau. Since becoming the largest city to pilot universal credit last March, rent arrears with Newcastle council’s housing provider have gone through the roof. At the last count, they stood at £1.3m. Some tenants have run out of cash, leaving the bureau to pick up the pieces.

Think about that: at least 2,400 people in rental arrears in a medium-sized city, with a growing economy, thriving digital sector, two universities and a rich cultural offer. It could be anywhere in England. Newcastle’s experience with universal credit and the consequent impact on social housing – and the shrinkage it is inflicting on the private rented sector – should be a warning to the rest of the country as it is rolled out.

With penniless claimants waiting a minimum of six weeks for the new benefit, – and it can often be much longer – staff at the CAB, opposite the office converted into a stage set for I, Daniel Blake, are overwhelmed by the fallout. They offer food bank vouchers to some and direct desperate people to the crisis support team of a council which has lost 40% of its budget since 2010. These are truly desperate times – as the chancellor Phillip Hammond has been reminded as he prepares for the autumn budget. Hammond has pledged to double housebuilding to 300,000 annually, but it will be a triumph of hype over reality unless he provides billions extra to boost construction.

Like the country as a whole, Newcastle has a buoyant housing market in some districts, serving a comfortable majority, alongside lower-income neighbourhoods housing the working poor. That division reflects a new report from the Resolution Foundation showing that this latter group has suffered disproportionately from changes in housing costs over the past decade.

It didn’t have to be like this. This government has deliberately sought to subsidise home ownership at the expense of social housing. Only a few weeks ago, Theresa May announced a further £10bn boost to David Cameron’s help-to-buy scheme, subsidising first-time buyers with a 20% loan.

By contrast, the prime minister last month promised only £2bn for a “new generation” of 25,000 council houses and affordable homes to rent by 2021. The state, she said, must get back in the business of building subsidised rented homes for those unable to buy.

That might make more sense if it reversed £3bn of cuts made in the affordable housing budget since 2010 – and acknowledged that few of the 40,000 so-called “affordable” rented homes built last year were earmarked for social housing.

Worse, government policy is reducing the stock of social homes – because councils are being forced to sell houses at discounted rates under a Thatcherite right-to-buy scheme. As a result, around 12,000 council homes are sold in England annually – although Scotland has sensibly now abolished right-to-buy.

You might remember countless promises from successive ministers that the cash raised from sales would be ploughed into building new homes. Dream on. Only 3,000 council houses are built annually in England.

Last week the Office for National Statistics reclassified housing associations – now the main providers of social housing – as private sector enterprises, giving them more power to borrow now they are off the government’s books. No such luck for councils, which still own around 800,000 social homes. They are prevented by a government borrowing “cap” from using their assets, and guaranteed rental income streams, to raise sufficient funds to build on a scale to meet demand. They reckon 15,000 new homes annually is within their grasp initially.

What’s holding them up? You might well ask. As a desperate Blake shouted in the jobcentre: “I am just going round in circles.” Ditto ministers. But that rather flatters a government seemingly bent on compounding the housing crisis with a botched universal credit rollout.

Usual comments section ... buzzing as I type.

I , Daniel Blake ... a drama ... or a documentary ?

ps. Council Tax ... level of arrears ?

The Perfect Storm ...
Ground zero ... Flintshire , North Wales ... south west of Liverpool ... effect of UC on council tenants :

http://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-w ... e-13895549

Council tenants on Universal Credit owe £350,000 in unpaid rent.

Flintshire Council revealed the figures and said recovery of the arrears from people on the new benefit was a 'concern'.

Flintshire Council tenants receiving Universal Credit owe more than £350,000 in unpaid rent.

The local authority has said £354,000 worth of outstanding rent arrears was owed to them by those who were being given the controversial new benefit.

In a report, the council’s chief officer for community and enterprise Clare Budden said the rollout of the new benefit system within Flintshire had caused a number of problems.

She said: “In Flintshire, the council is experiencing, first hand, a significant number of challenges and issues with the implementation of Universal Credit full service.

“Partly due to the challenges in supporting residents with this significant change, and partly because the universal credit processes are still in development as part of the UK Governments ‘test and learn’ approach to the rollout.

“Flintshire’s response to the implementation of universal credit has been seen as a model of good practice by other Welsh local authorities and the Welsh Government and the benefit department have been providing support to other Welsh local authorities ahead of the roll out in their areas.”

The council has 260 tenants currently receiving universal credit. They said that some of these debts will have existed prior to the introduction of universal credit, with some being built up due to the delay in payment at the beginning of a universal credit claim.

Mrs Budden said the recovery of unpaid rents directly from tenants’ benefit payments was a “concern”.

She said: “This can be recovered at a rate of up to 20 per cent of the customer’s monthly payment.

“However, early evidence has shown that this reduces payments of universal credit to a worryingly low amount of money for a customer to be expected to live on each month especially if there are other deductions being taken from the customer’s monthly payments of universal credit, therefore increasing hardship.”

Mrs Budden said households were also being impacted by the so-called bedroom tax, in which households who are under occupying homes are hit with housing benefit reductions.

A total of 249 registered social landlord tenants and 794 Flintshire Council tenants impacted by the spare room subsidy.

The total annual reduction in housing benefit for all of these tenants is £824,661 annually.

Just one manor .... 50 manors / 250,000+ potentially new victims per month ... next 15 - 18 months.

Now , just imagine ... NOT council tenants but BTL tenants.

What do you think would happen when the usual 6 / 12 short term assured leases expire ?

You ... as the BTL landlord ?????

Need I say anymore ?
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