Sunday, 20 September 2015

Government "affordable rents" are not affordable!

In his July budget, the Chancellor George Osborne announced a 1%-a-year reduction in rents for social housing tenants. He guaranteed that this would be for each of the next four years.

More recently in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister said: “For years in our country, we had something of a merry-go-round where rents went up, housing benefits went up, so taxes had to go up to pay for that. I think it was right in the budget to cut the rents that social tenants pay, not least because those people who are working and not on housing benefit will see a further increase in their take-home pay, and be able to afford more things in life.”

To hear David Cameron talking about rent reductions in such a manner, I find it hypocritical in the extreme.

He is, after all, the man who has presided over a Government which drastically slashed investment in new affordable homes, and also decreed that new affordable properties for rent should not be let out at traditional “social rents.”

Instead, his Government introduced a new concept of “affordable rent,” which it set at 80% of the extremely high rent levels of open-market housing.

The manner in which the 80% is calculated by Registered Providers also means that the rent being charged makes a mockery of its description as affordable housing.

I have made numerous representations on this issue and the problems were brought home to me again recently when I was approached by a neighbour. Her family live in a 3-bed “affordable rent” house and are presently paying just over £154 a week, which works out at £616 a month.

No-one could reasonably claim that such a price falls within 80% of average open market rents in my home parish.

By contrast, the most recent set of rental properties advertised through Homechoice included 35 two-bed / three-bed “social rent” properties across Cornwall. All but three of these were available for weekly rents of between £67 and £101, which makes so much more sense.

I have also written to Cornwall Council to formally request that a review is undertaken into the cost of “affordable rent” properties, how the rents are being set by Registered Providers, and what can be done to pressure central government on this issue.

[This will be my article in this coming week's Cornish Guardian].

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