John Healey MP, Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Minister for Housing and Planning, has warned that specialist housing providers could be forced to close accommodation for the most vulnerable because of Tory Housing Benefit cuts.
Mr Healey responded to a recent survey revealing that 95% of specialist housing providers could be forced to close accommodation units, due to Government plans to limit Housing Benefit in the social rented sector to Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates.
Mr Healey said: “Last month, we revealed that George Osborne’s cuts to housing benefit support for thousands of elderly, disabled and homeless people could mean that vital supported accommodation across the country would be forced to close.
“This new survey confirms the catastrophic impact these cuts could have.
“George Osborne must halt these dangerous plans, publish a full impact assessment and consult fully with housing providers to safeguard this essential housing for those who need it.”
Concerns have also been raised over the impact of the proposed cuts on other vulnerable social groups, the website Inside Housing reports.
Mentally ill people under the age of 35 living in specialist accommodation would face significant rent shortfalls of almost £200 a week.
Brighton Housing Trust (BHT) says plans to cap housing benefit for social tenants, including those living in supported housing, at LHA rates would result in nearly three-quarters (70%) of its properties becoming unaffordable to under 35’s. Those affected would only qualify for the “shared room rate”, which is the cost of renting a room in shared accommodation.
The Housing Association also warned that tenants in general needs housing would have to find between £12 and £32 per week to cover a rent shortfall.
Under-35s living in 71 of 101 specialist mental health units would face a shortfall of between £52.60 and £193.49.
Meanwhile, tenants in specialist drug and alcohol housing, homelessness hostels and young people’s accommodation would face shortfalls of up to £75 per week.
People over the age of 35 would also be unable to afford many of the homes, although the Housing Association says rent gaps would not be large as for other social groups.
The housing sector is calling on the Government to exempt supported and sheltered housing from the cap on Housing Benefit.
A Government offer of additional Discretionary Housing Payments to plug the rent shortfalls would be insufficient, says BHT.