Thursday, March 09, 2006

Private Sector Housing Forum

This is intended as an interface between the Council and private sector housing providers. It met last night.
Subjects for discussion included the new Tenancy Deposit Scheme and the Local Housing Allowance.
The TDP is supposed to come into force on 6th April, but not all the Regulations are as yet in place, so there is some confusion as to how it will operate and how landlords and tenants are all to be informed about it. Landlords' organizations such as the National Landlords' Association will do sterling work, but there are reckoned to be 750,000 landlords in Britain, the vast majority of whom belong to no organization at all.
The LHA would be funny if it were not so tragic. The ostensible intention of the Government is to make 'vulnerable' households (means in this context families in receipt of Housing Benefit) more financially responsible by paying the benefit to them instead of, as with current Housing Benefit, direct to the landlord (thus avoiding rent arrears and consequent eviction). The LHA is also differently calculated, using a formula (as I understand it) based on family size>no. of rooms required x median cost of renting said number in the local housing market. One flaw is that half the available accommodation will cost more than the median and in many cases much more. Families will be free to rent fewer rooms than the family size formula indicates they should have. This might mean they get accommodation for less than their assessed LHA. They will be free to pocket the difference.
All of this seems to me to be a recipe for
  • rent arrears, to avoid which
  • landlords will be less than ever inclined in high demand areas like Kingston to rent accommodation to people on benefits, while
  • such people will be encouraged to go into overcrowded accommodation as well.

The government has been trialling the scheme in half a dozen 'pathfinder' (sic) areas - not Kingston. It has produced a glossy booklet finding that such prognostications as the above are not justified, though, reading between the lines, there is an element of back-pedalling. Times for introduction have been lengthened and there are signs of nibbling at the edges of the scheme. But basically the Government is desperately trying to persuade itself that the scheme is good and well thought out. It didn't succeed last night in convincing anybody else, except, perhaps, the one Labour councillor present........

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