Fighting to get fair rents for York residents
Today I have written to Lord Freud, the Minister responsible for Welfare Reform, in response to a letter I received from the Minister about the Housing Benefit reforms which were raised in a Shelter report on local rent levels and affordability which was published on 13 October.
The Shelter report showed that York is the most unaffordable city in the whole of the Yorkshire and Humber region for private rents and rents are on a par with those in the South East and East of England and not with those in other northern cities. I wrote to the Housing Minister, Grant Shapps, to ask him if he would be willing to base his figures for the Local Housing Allowance, which is the figure used to calculate benefits, on average rents across the York Unitary Authority and not on other parts of the region which have lower rents than in York.
Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform, has replied to say in terms of the York Broad Rental Market Area the Department of Work and Pensions estimates that 31% of private rented properties are affordable to housing benefit claimants since the reforms were introduced.
I am shocked by the response from Lord Freud. The Minister seems unconcerned that rents in the York Broad Rental Market Area will be unaffordable to 69% of people in receipt of housing benefits. This figure is far too high, and people in York will be hit much harder than those in other parts of the Broad Rental Market Area, because rents are much higher in the city. It is unlikely that many of the 31% of housing benefit claimants will live in the city. Most of these people will live in areas where the rents are lower, such as Selby and Malton. I have therefore written again to ask the Minister to let me know what proportion of the 31%, if any, live within my York constituency or within the York Unitary Authority.
The Minister needs to take a closer look at the problem in York. If people cannot afford to live in the city they will be forced to move away to cheaper areas. Figures show that York is continuing to buck the trend and fight off the economic downturn. The number of people on Job Seekers’ Allowance has recently gone down. If York residents are forced to move away, some will lose their jobs. This is extremely unfair and will end up costing the government even more in unemployment benefits. I want the Minister to recognise the problem and treat York as a special case.