MPs demand govt support for landlords of benefit-backed tenancies

by: Carmen Reichman
  • 19/08/2016
  • 0
MPs demand govt support for landlords of benefit-backed tenancies
MPs have demanded greater support from the government for landlords letting to people on social benefits in order to reduce the risk of homelessness.

A report by the Communities and Local Government Select Committee out on 18 August demanded the government explore measures to help encourage landlords to let to homeless people and those at financial risk.

It said Local Housing Allowances levels – benefits given to tenants renting from private landlords – should be reviewed so that they more closely reflect market rents.

Landlords should further be encouraged to offer longer Assured Shorthold Tenancies which allow tenants to leave early without penalty.

Tenants in receipt of housing support should also be given the option of having their housing benefits paid directly to their landlord, reducing the likelihood of them falling into arrears and increasing landlord willingness to let to them.

The committee had found “a demonstrable increase in homelessness” in its report, which it said was driven by the cost and availability of housing.

The report is complemented by the Homelessness Reduction Bill, a Private Member’s Bill presented by committee member MP Bob Blackman.

The committee will take evidence on the bill, which is aimed at improving the support and advice offered to all homeless people, once it has been published.

MPs said in light of the shortage of social housing the private rented sector was an essential means to help people escape and avoid homelessness. However, for many the financial barriers and instability of tenancies were too great.

Chair of the committee Clive Betts said: “No one should be homeless in Britain today, but the reality is that more and more people find themselves on the streets, in night shelters or going from sofa to sofa to keep a roof over their heads. They are often driven there by the availability and cost of housing and have been failed by front line support services along the way.

“The scale of homelessness is now such that a renewed Government strategy is a must. It needs to not only help those who are homeless but also prevent those vulnerable families and individuals who are at risk of becoming homeless from joining them. All Departments will need to subscribe to this common approach and contribute to ending homelessness.”

The committee will follow up on its recommendations made in a year’s time, it said.

National Landlords Association (NLA) chief executive Richard Lambert welcomed the findings but urged the government to show more support to landlords letting to those at risk.

He said: “We are delighted that the Committee has reached the common sense conclusion that housing benefit levels must reflect the cost of providing decent quality housing and that local authorities need to do more to help tenants that fall into arrears before tenancies are put in jeopardy.

“However, landlords who home tenants that rely on housing benefits receive an alarming lack of support and understanding from both local and national government.

He added: “The NLA is pleased to support Bob Blackman’s ‘Preventing Homelessness Bill’ which seeks to address many of the issues highlighted in this report, and we are working with him, Crisis and the Committee to ensure that it gets on the statue book.”

Separately the Communities and Local Government Committee is inquiring about the UK housebuilding industry, saying its failure to keep up with demand for new homes has left the country “in a crisis”.

It will hear from the chief executives of major developers alongside ministers and representatives of industry bodies, the Homes and Communities Agency, local authorities and housing associations.

The inquiry launched on 5 July and will accept written submissions until 12 September.

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