Welsh Tenants Response
House of Commons Welsh Affairs Committee report: The impact of changes to housing benefit in Wales.
We welcome the conclusions of the Welsh Affairs Committee report on housing benefit impacts on Wales chaired by David Davies MP. The report concludes the under-occupancy policy affects proportionally more housing benefit claimants in Wales than elsewhere in Great Britain and the Committee heard that that there could be a shortage of one and two bedroom homes in Wales to re-house everyone who wants to downsize as a result of the policy. We also welcome the call to undertake a speedy review of this policy as recommended by the visiting UN Special Rapporteur on Housing, Raquel Rolnick.
It also concludes that Government needs to monitor rental costs in the private rental market in Wales following the introduction of the policy. The report also concludes that Government should monitor the impact on disabled tenants with adapted properties to determine whether there is a case for exempting them from the policy.
The Government’s proposal to pay housing benefit direct to social tenants under Universal Credit may result in some tenants being unable to manage their rent payments and falling into debt. If this happens on a large scale, the direct payments policy will be a failure states the committee. The Committee recommends that the Government provide for housing benefit to be paid direct to the landlords in certain circumstances, for example after a specified period of non-payment.
Most critically, the committee recommended that the Government assess the impact of the policy on separated families, and that the UK government issues guidance on the appropriate size of bedrooms in the social rented sector.
The Welsh Tenants presented written evidence to the committee along with Shelter Cymru who also gave direct evidence along with other stakeholders. It is unclear however whether the UK Government will take on board the recommendations contained in the report.
Steve Clarke stated “the report is a fair reflection of the situation here in Wales as evidenced by the organisations giving evidence. We now need to see action by the UK government to mitigate some of the unintended consequences that are causing real hardship and will undoubtedly increase poverty here in Wales”.
He added, “The Welsh Tenants are looking to the Welsh Government and everyone involved in housing here in Wales to come together to determine what is appropriate size criteria for bedrooms and to discuss the grossly unjust impacts on people with disabilities. In the absence of real solutions to correct these injustices, we will continue to argue for the policy to be repealed”.
A copy of the report can be found here: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/welsh-affairs-committee/news/the-impact-of-changes-to-housing-benefit-in-wales1/