Sunday, 9 June 2013

Problems with affordable housing

My article in last week’s Cornish Guardian focused on housing problems that I am encountering in my role as an elected member. It was as follows:

As a local councillor, I am getting increasingly concerned about the approach of the Coalition Government to affordable housing.

Investment in new homes has been massively reduced and the Government has stated that it expects new “affordable” rental properties, built by Councils and Housing Associations, to be at an “affordable rent.”

But the Government has defined “affordable rent” as 80% of the cost of market rents in the local area, which are already highly inflated.

In my home parish, a new estate is presently being completed and the three-bedroom “affordable” houses will each cost £140-£145 per week to rent. That compares to many existing properties of a similar size that would cost between £75 to £100 a week.

This shocking uplift in the cost of “affordable housing” means we are now in the ludicrous position of having families (in housing need) being refused “affordable” homes because their income is too low to meet the costs of such a property.

Some of the Government’s new rules on housing and changes to benefit entitlement are also having a damaging impact on many local families.

This week, I would like to give one example of how the system is simply not working.

I know of a family of six – made up of two adults plus two boys and two girls. They wished to bid for a new four-bedroom home for rent, that had specifically been designed to house six individuals.

But they were told by the Housing Association that – according to the rules of central government – the family should only be bidding for three-bedroom properties.

This is because of new rules from the Coalition relating to the “bedroom tax,” that has just introduced. In Housing Association rental properties, the Government now expects children of the same sex to share a bedroom until the age of sixteen.

In the case of this local family – the two girls that would be expected to share are a teenager and a one-year-old toddler.

And yet, if the four-bedroom property had been allocated to this family, it would have been occupied to capacity with all six bed-spaces filled.

But ridiculously, central government would have reduced benefit payments to the family because – according to their own illogical reasoning – the family only have a need for a three-bedroom six-person property and would be under-occupying the four-bedroom six-person unit!

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