Housing Benefit Policy Is Right

In a move designed to embed fairness into the system and limit the ballooning £22 billion-a-year Housing Benefit bill a cap on the total amount of Housing Benefit any family can receive was introduced last year. This limits the amount people in private rented accommodation can claim to (up to) between £250 and £400 a week depending on the size of home needed. When introduced there were 5,200 households in Westminster receiving HB above the cap levels.

Since the changes came into effect Westminster has seen an unprecedented number of families looking to be re-housed in more affordable accommodation. While this is obviously difficult for families who need to move home to a property within the cap, it is absolutely the right policy to ensure that taxpayers are getting value for money and to ensure out-of-work families are not prevented from getting back to work because of unaffordable housing bills.

We have seen media coverage this week of some extreme examples. In Westminster, we do not have the ability to put everyone who presents as homeless directly into self contained units or into social homes immediately. Therefore some families are given temporary accommodation and as an emergency measure some claimants are put in to Bed and Breakfast accommodation. Individual cases, like the Osman family - which has been highlighted by the BBC this week - are of course difficult and we quickly work to assess the needs of those families and find a more permanent home.
Putting families in B&Bs is a last resort, but the real issue here is the extremely high demand and lack of housing in London, which is a result of successive governments over the past 30 years simply failing to build enough homes. That is why the Mayor has been talking this week about new ways of funding new homes in the City – by the capital keeping revenues raised from Stamp Duty in London to build new homes - that can help meet the demand of our growing Capital.
In Westminster, we are currently building over 1,000 new properties through regeneration programmes, and creating new homes through innovative in-fill developments, making best use of small plots of council land.
But it simply cannot be right that hard working taxpayers continue to hand out over £36,000 a year in tax free housing benefit to families and it is right that we get a grip on both the housing crisis and sky high benefits bills.
The question we have ultimately to ask is whether the long term impact of the Housing Benefit cap will deliver much needed savings to the Housing Benefit Bill. I believe it will and we have already seen claims drop by 30% in Westminster saving £40m per annum for taxpayers.

This entry was posted on Friday, 8 February 2013. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Responses are currently closed.