No.1428 | 30 September – 13 October 2016
Maybe it’s just as well as well the UK has voted to leave the European Union: when it comes to our national record on housing and homelessness, we seem to be heading for relegation anywya.
In just one year, the UK has fallen from 12th place to 20th in the Housing Exclusion Index, a league table ranking the 28 EU states by their capacity to house their populations adequately. Only poorer countries from Eastern Europe – such as Hungary and Bulgaria – and those worst hit by the the Eurozone crisis – Greece, Italy and Portugal – finished lower than the UK. In fact, the UK was paced below not just Nordic countries and the rest of western Europe, but also Poland and Croatia.
This was the sharpest decline of any nation in the EU, and the damage was done mainly by cuts to Housing Benefit. So it’s just as well Prime Minister Theresa May and Work & Pensions Secretary Damien Green have pledged that there will be “no new search for cuts’ in benefits – except that budget decisions already taken will make matters worse.
Cuts to Housing Benefit already in train include a freeze in LHA [the Local Housing Allowance paid to private tenants] until 2020 regardless of any rent increases, a cap on Housing Benefit at LHA levels, and the withdrawal of automatic entitlement for under-21s.
Housing Benefit is paid to a rapidly rising number people who are in-work as well as out-of-work, and the changes will mean that it will cover less and less of their rent as time goes on. For people out-of-work, the Household Benefit Cap will be reduced to £20,000 [£23,000 in London] from November, making rents unaffordable for larger families, even in social housing and for people in expensive areas.
The Index, produced by FEANTSA [the European Federation of National Organisations working with the Homeless] and Fondation Abbé Pierre [a French campaign against bad housing], uses European statistics on housing cost, overcrowding, the effects of tenure and other factors to monitor the quality and affordability of housing in each member state.
To save May and Green’s blushes, perhaps it’s best if Brexit does mean Brexit.