The Social Liberal Forum welcomes the Coalition Government’s commitment to building 150,000 affordable homes over the course of this parliament, which goes some way to benefiting some of the 4 million people on social housing waiting lists. However the SLF remains concerned that the proposed changes to housing benefit, announced by the government as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review, are likely to impact particularly on vulnerable families in inner-city areas across the country.
The SLF is particularly concerned over the following aspects of the government’s proposals:
* cuts to housing benefit for the long-term unemployed receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance
* raising new social housing tenants’ rents to up to 80% of the market rate
* bringing the Local Housing Allowance into line with the bottom third of rents (not the bottom half as currently) and
* linking social rents to CPI and not rent inflation.
It is vital that the Coalition Government takes an holistic approach to policy, ensuring that excellent progressive policies such as the Pupil Premium and the higher ‘Citizen’s Pension’ are not counter-acted by changes to housing benefit.
The SLF are also troubled by the use of insensitive and unhelpful language – from the Labour party and the Mayor of London – referring to ‘cleansing’ in criticising the government’s proposals, particularly given that the former’s General Election manifesto contained plans to cap housing benefit.
There is a clear need to reform social housing, to both end the subsidy of extortionate private-sector rents and to provide as much affordable housing as possible; the SLF insists that in doing so, the government ensures that the most vulnerable are not priced out from inner cities by commissioning an independent impact assessment of their proposals.