The housing safety net is being undermined at the very time it’s needed most
In the debate about cuts to frontline services, there has been one glaring omission: housing.
So far it seems to have slipped under the radar that legislation currently going through Parliament is taking away the housing safety net that helps millions of people keep a roof over their head. Yet having a home is as basic a right as that to medical treatment, safety on the streets or an education, and is inextricably linked to all of these. And with instability in the job market, more and more people are going to need support to stay in their homes in the months ahead.
That’s why we need to convince government to rethink measures in the Welfare Reform Bill that will deliver yet another round of cuts to housing benefit. Our research has shown that these changes will, over time, see large swathes of the country become unaffordable for pensioners, carers, disabled people, low-paid workers and anyone who has lost their job and needs temporary rent support. Many will have to move miles from their communities, their schools and crucially, from where the jobs are.
Meanwhile, a rise in interest rates would push thousands more homeowners into mortgage arrears. Support for Mortgage Interest, which helps 225,000 struggling homeowners keep up their mortgage payments, has already been cut. And Shelter's recent research has shown the number of people struggling to pay their mortgage has surged by 78 per cent over the past year alone.
Those in the most acute housing need are also being hit hard. Proposals in the Localism Bill will let councils place more homeless families in insecure private rented accommodation at the bottom-end of the market at the very time they need stability to get back on their feet. Cuts to funding to help people with support needs to stay in their homes will inevitably lead to an increase in homelessness, while changes to legal aid will reduce access to housing advice and support.
Housing is as fundamental to our society as the police, health or education and it is being undermined right under our noses.
Campbell Robb is Chief Executive of Shelter, the housing and homelessness charity.
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