Challenging Housing Minister in response to Shelter report
I wrote to the Minister for Housing, Grant Shapps today, in response to the report just published by Shelter on the housing market. The sensational findings of the report are that York has the most unaffordable rents in Yorkshire and the Humber and that average rents are on a par with those in the South East and East of England and not with those in other northern cities.
I am concerned that Housing Benefits in York are set using the Local Housing Allowance based on average rents in areas far away from York and not on the much higher rents in the City of York itself. This means that most rental housing in York is unaffordable to local people and for people on benefits there is a shortfall in the amount of benefits they receive and the amount they have to pay in rent.
Many York residents have no option but to move away to cheaper areas where they have much less hope of finding a job. I believe this is wrong.
The Shelter report has confirmed that rents in York are the most unaffordable in the whole of the Yorkshire and Humber region. Rents are similar to those in the affluent South East where average earnings are much higher. In York, the average salary is £24,738 and people are having to pay an average of £648 per month for a two bedroom flat. This is the average and many people are paying much higher rents each month. I am aware of York people having to move away from their families and friends because they cannot afford the rent. When they move away from York they are much more likely to be unemployed.
I have written to the Housing Minister to ask him to treat York as a special case when he is assessing housing benefits. My letter can be read here.
The Local Housing Allowance is the figure used to calculate benefits and it should be based on the rents which people actually pay in York. I am pressing the government for urgent action to stop York residents being priced out of their own city. I want the Minister to read the Shelter report and bring the government’s house building policies and housing benefits into line with real needs in our city.