Housing charity warns that UK could have claimant-free blackspots

January 13, 2014

Luke-Notley small (Custom)Housing charity Shelter has warned that benefit blackspots could be created throughout Britain, following a decision by landlord Fergus Wilson to reject housing benefit claimants.

The Guardian newspaper reported at the weekend how one of Britain’s best-known landlords had sent out eviction notices to all of his tenants on benefits. Wilson has also told letting agents that he will now refuse applicants who claim housing benefit.

Shelter has revealed that the same action has already been taken by many other landlords, creating a concern that if the trend continues claimants will be placed in the lowest quality housing in the poorest parts of Britain.

Roger Harding, director of policy at Shelter, said: “It is very worrying. If this policy continues over the long term, we will see blackspots in the country where people on housing benefit simply cannot find anywhere reasonable. There’ll be areas where, if you lose your job or become ill, and you try and fall back on housing benefit, it won’t be high enough for you to find somewhere. Unless you have savings, you’re going to move town.”

According to Harding, there are currently 500,000 people claiming housing benefit in the private sector. “It is an awfully large number and includes pensioners and people in work who can’t afford their rent. This could affect any area where future rents really outstrip inflation and where there is a lot of pressure on the rental market.”

Shelter, who have in the past been criticised by officials for ‘scaremongering’, say they warned the government three years ago that its housing policies would have an adverse effect on claimants, but they were told by the government that the reverse would happen.

The charity said, “Keeping a home could soon become even harder for families who desperately need the short-term safety net that housing benefit is designed to provide. The rental market is broken and no one wins.”

Wilson, who owns nearly 1,000 properties in Kent, sent his eviction notices to 200 tenants. He states the move is an economic decision, saying he prefers eastern European migrants to single mothers on welfare, as single mothers, who Wilson refers to as a group for which sympathy is disappearing, default much more frequently.

Wilson told the Guardian, “Rents have gone north, and benefit levels south. The gap is such that I have taken the decision to withdraw from taking tenants on housing benefit. From what I can gather, just about all other landlords have done the same. Our situation is that not one of our working tenants is in arrears – all those in arrears are on housing benefit.”