Housing crisis video: Unfair benefit payments are pushing families out of Stroud, says David Drew MP
“In one of the last debates before Parliament’s summer recess, I again raised the issue of Stroud people being priced out of the district because of the unfair way that housing payments are calculated.
The debate on the crisis in social housing and homelessness, was an opportunity to reiterate my heartfelt plea for urgent action to address this inherent unfairness.
People in Stroud who are entitled to financial assistance with their rent miss out, because our payments are pegged to local market rents which include the much cheaper rents in Gloucester.
In any case, the levels of financial assistance have failed to keep pace with market prices. Housing charity Shelter found that only 9% of rental properties in Gloucestershire are affordable to people who receive housing benefits.
In Stroud, where rents are higher, even fewer properties will be available, and families are, quite simply, being priced out. The huge shortfall is exacerbated because private landlords increasingly will not take people who receive benefits.
Stroud District Council is working hard to deliver more social housing but tackling our housing crisis requires a multi-faceted approach, especially if we are to maintain diverse communities.
Previously a housing minister assured me that he would look into the issue. Last week I wrote to the Department of Work and Pensions to urge him to do so. (Read my letter below)
We have a new Prime Minister with a lengthy ‘to do’ list. If he were to rank these according to the impact on people’s lives, then the housing crisis would be a priority. Sadly, I see little reason for optimism that this hamstrung Government will deliver meaningful change for ordinary people.”
Will Quince MP
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Family Support Housing and Child Maintenance
Department for Work and Pensions
16 July 2019
Re: Review of Broad Rental Market Areas (BRMAs) for Local Housing Allowance (LHA)
I am writing following the statements made in parliament about the review of the BRMA areas on 13th June and 1st July 2019. You stated that a review of the BRMA rental areas was ongoing and is a huge and complex piece of work, given that there are approximately 900 BRMAs. Whilst I agree that rectifying the anomalies in affordability across areas is complex; there are actually 152 BRMAs in the UK rather than 900 – each spanning large areas with disparate housing markets. This results in an inequality of access to the tenure in many areas including Stroud constituency which should be urgently resolved.
Constituents within Stroud are negatively impacted by the current arrangement, as Stroud is within the Gloucester BRMA but average rents are significantly higher than those within Gloucester. Realistically this means that residents within Gloucester City will easily find affordable private rented housing at well above the calculated 30th percentile because Stroud rents have also been used to calculate the median rent and LHA for Gloucester. The same LHA rate within Stroud, however, is likely to be much closer to the 20th percentile of available housing because of the lower market rental levels within Gloucester.
Affordability has led to a high demand for social housing within Stroud, and many applicants in significant or urgent housing need cannot realistically access the tenure. In common with the rest of the UK, the private rented and social housing tenures are comparable in size within Stroud; and I am mindful that the private sector is recognised to be part of the solution for homelessness in the Homeless Reduction legislation. Whilst the BRMAs remain unchanged, however, constituents in areas such as Stroud are unfairly disadvantaged in finding affordable housing within the private sector, and more likely to experience homeless crisis. Given that there are 152 BRMAs, I would be grateful if you could confirm irrespective of the complexities involved, how your department plans to address the BRMA inequalities.
David Drew MP