The Socialist 6 April 2011
Cuts wreck people's lives
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Housing benefit cuts start to bite
Dave Nellist, Socialist Party councillor, Coventry
No DSS - Landlords discriminate against those on housing benefit
There will be widespread anguish at Tory/Lib Dems' changes to housing benefit which came into force on 1 April. Hundreds of thousands of families will find their future entitlement to help with housing costs in privately rented property sharply reduced.
These changes will apply straightaway to all new claims for Local Housing Allowance (LHA). But other existing tenants, if already receiving LHA, will be affected if their circumstances change. For example, if someone in the family leaves (meaning their claim would then be based on 'entitlement' to a smaller home), or if a family moves to a new property, they will suffer cuts in entitlement.
Existing tenants will see their claims reduce at some point up to nine months after the anniversary of their claim date.
LHA was introduced by the Labour government in 2008 and only ever fully covered five out of ten rented properties in any area. But from 1 April the Tory/Lib Dem government has decided that only three in ten privately rented properties will be eligible for full LHA and be affordable. For those who live in the other seven out of ten properties, the government intends tenants will either have to make up the difference or move to somewhere cheaper.
Dave Nellist at NSSN lobby of TUC, photo Suleyman Civi
In Coventry the local council has written to approximately 10,000 tenants and 1,200 landlords, and, in a press release, estimates the changes will reduce entitlement to LHA for privately renting tenants by an average of £550 a year, or £11 a week.
For larger families the reduction could be as much as £2,750 a year, or £55 a week as the rate for new claims will be based on a maximum four bedroom, not a five bedroom, property.
As unemployment rises, then more and more families are going to be pushed into poverty. And if landlords don't reduce their rents by the same amount as the cuts (not a very likely prospect) then evictions and homelessness will rise.
As housing specialist Rob Windsor said: "This is just the start of cuts which will push people into overcrowded housing. In the case of people under 35 years old, shared housing will be the only option. With less and less jobs the days of rising homelessness will return, thanks to the Tories and their Liberal Democrat rear gunners."
I want Coventry council to collate the responses to the letters they have sent to tenants and landlords and urgently prepare a strategy to pressurise the government to reverse these vindictive changes.
Pressure needs to be brought on councils around the country to link up in a campaign to force the government to retreat.
We need candidates in the May elections who will argue against these cuts and instead for a mass programme of building affordable, decent housing, and a benefits system that fully protects people when they need it.
Candidates from the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) will certainly be doing that.
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