Monday, 25 July 2011

HOUSING BENEFIT GLOOM FOR KENT

Kent Green Party has been investigating the impact of changes in Housing Benefit throughout Kent and Medway. Dr Hazel Dawe, Campaigns Officer of Kent Green Party, comments:

“Research has shown cuts in housing benefit will hit households in every part of Kent and Medway(1). At present, claimants include low-paid workers, unemployed job-seekers and low-income pensioners. Cuts mean claimants will only have access to the cheapest 30 per cent of rental properties, instead of the cheapest 50 per cent available before(2). About 15% of households affected will lose more than £150 per week (3).

“Proposed changes to housing benefit for people in supported housing by the Department for Work and Pensions(4) are particularly cruel. They take no account of the resulting hardship. There are problems with the existing system but these proposals are not the answer(5)."

“Homelessness in Kent has already risen by a quarter in a year (6). Kent Green Party has already expressed concern about housing policies in Kent and Medway in its review of County-wide housing policies(7). We believe the costs of housing benefit can be reduced by introducing a Living Wage for Kent and Medway of £8.10 per hour. Also, the Right to Buy in council housing should end, to conserve this housing to meet demand(8). Kent’s population growth is estimated at over 200,000 people in the next two decades and affordable housing need at about 12,000 units per year(9). This makes it imperative to bring all empty homes and brownfield sites into use(10).”

Ends c252 words

FURTHER INFORMATION: Dr Hazel Dawe, Campaigns Officer, Kent Green Party on 01732 355185 or 079444 71083. Contact address as above. Published by Kent Green Party and promoted by H.Dawe, both at 27, Audley Avenue, Tonbridge, Kent TN9 1XF.

Notes:

1. https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AonYZs4MzlZbdFpEYjdfZVpUY0tZRktMZjFReG9yNEE&hl=en#gid=6 [Line 251 to 262 for details, and line 222 for MEDWAY] The key details of Government policy changes in this area can be found summarised at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-12674409 and by Shelter at: http://england.shelter.org.uk/get_advice/paying_for_a_home/housing_benefit_and_local_housing_allowance/future_changes_to_local_housing_allowance Additional information from the National Homelessness Advice Service is available in their leaflet: ‘Housing Benefit is changing from April 2011.’

2. http://www.thisiskent.co.uk/Benefits-cuts-damage-poor-families/story-12003099-detail/story.html

3. National Housing Federation, Shelter, Crisis, Citizens Advice Bureau and Homeless Link – Joint Briefing – Welfare Reform Bill Clause 93.

4. http://www.dwp.gov.uk/consultations/2011/supported-housing.shtml

(Consultation start date: 19 July; End date: 9 October). See also: http://www.communitycare.co.uk/blogs/adult-care-blog/2011/07/housing-benefit-changes-for-supported-housing---its-not-about-cuts.html

5. Chris Smith of Housing Benefit Help: http://www.hbhelp.co.uk/index.php?page=General/Home.htm

6. http://www.kentonline.co.uk/kentonline/news/2011-1/april/22/homelessness_rises_in_kent.aspx & http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-13264076

7. Review of Kent Housing Group Report, Kent Green Party June 2011: http://www.kentgreenparty.org/publications.php

8. About 36,000 households are on council waiting lists in Kent. This is likely to substantially under-estimate housing need as overcrowding and properties which are not of a decent standard need to be taken into account.

9. Social housing is about 13% of housing in Kent; private rental property is about 14%. SEE: http://wkconsulting.org.uk/about-us/articles/Kent_and_Medway_Speech.php

10. But it will also be necessary to use long-term empty industrial sites and buildings in industrial estates; spaces above shops; long-term disused retail premises; adaptations of disused farm buildings; building above surface car parks, retaining parking at the base of new structures where necessary. A recent detailed analysis of Housing in Kent and Medway is: Kerry Higgins – Kent and Medway Strategic Housing Market Assessment, May 2010.

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