WALTHAM FOREST: Housing benefits reform "will lead to overcrowding"

First published in Where I Live by

REFORMS to the housing benefit system could worsen the problem of overcrowded housing, a minister has warned.

Thousands of homes in the borough have been carved up into individual flats, or adapted to enable many people to share the space, as landlords try to optimise profits.

The proposed changes will mean under 35s will no longer be able to claim for a self-contained property, forcing them into homes with shared facilities.

Responding to a parliamentary question from Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy, junior minister for pensions Steve Webb admitted the changes are likely to lead to the further loss of larger homes.

The Liberal Democrat MP said: “One consequence of the reforms to housing benefit will be that the local housing market will change.

“We anticipate, for example, that some of the larger properties might find themselves converted into houses in multiple occupation, although we do not know exactly what will happen.

“One problem is that over many years we have seen inadequate house building taking place under the hon. Lady's Government.”

Ms Creasy said: "I asked the minister about the impact of housing benefit reforms because I don't think the Government has thought through the consequences of this policy and his answer shows I was right to be concerned.

“There are 1,500 people in Waltham Forest who could be affected by changes to the shared room rate, and so will have to move house if these changes go through.

“As we're already desperately short of family sized housing, the minister’s answer to my question demonstrates a worrying lack of understanding about their situation or the needs of our community."

As Waltham Forest Council’s cabinet member for housing, Cllr Marie Pye is responsible for finding a solution to the borough’s housing crisis.

She said: "Unfortunately we have found that when you have houses overcrowded with single people often sharing inadequate facilities this causes all kinds of problems.

“Having even more multi-occupancy homes can only bring more problems to Waltham Forest.

“The Government should be thinking again about their housing benefit changes if they're going to have these kinds of consequences."

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Comments (3)

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11:32am Fri 18 Feb 11

Silent Majority 2009 says...

Once again the planning process is being abused. It will now be essential the planning department ensure they have the powers to stop the conversion of large houses into bedsits and ensure the rules are enforced. The planners can already reject conversion in certain wards so now this needs to be applied across the Borough. The council should be working with the GLA to encourage people to move out of London. In the days of the GLC the policy was to maintain London at about 7m people. We need to rapidly get back to that policy as Waltham Forest's services are now at breaking point with inadequate provision for primary school places, a hospital struggling to cope and the roads heavily congested with traffic. When will our councillors realise they have to campaign for a change not give way to the Government every time.
Once again the planning process is being abused. It will now be essential the planning department ensure they have the powers to stop the conversion of large houses into bedsits and ensure the rules are enforced. The planners can already reject conversion in certain wards so now this needs to be applied across the Borough. The council should be working with the GLA to encourage people to move out of London. In the days of the GLC the policy was to maintain London at about 7m people. We need to rapidly get back to that policy as Waltham Forest's services are now at breaking point with inadequate provision for primary school places, a hospital struggling to cope and the roads heavily congested with traffic. When will our councillors realise they have to campaign for a change not give way to the Government every time. Silent Majority 2009
  • Score: 0

2:15pm Fri 18 Feb 11

mdj says...

'“Having even more multi-occupancy homes can only bring more problems to Waltham Forest'
How nice to be able to agree with Cllr Pye.
Could this help explain why some people living in bedsits with shared facilities have been hit with Council Tax increases, as if they were independent flat-dwellers? These are some of the worst-off residents of the Borough.
It would however make it seem on paper as though control was being exercised over the number of HMO's.
Can anybody comment?
'“Having even more multi-occupancy homes can only bring more problems to Waltham Forest' How nice to be able to agree with Cllr Pye. Could this help explain why some people living in bedsits with shared facilities have been hit with Council Tax increases, as if they were independent flat-dwellers? These are some of the worst-off residents of the Borough. It would however make it seem on paper as though control was being exercised over the number of HMO's. Can anybody comment? mdj
  • Score: 0

5:44pm Fri 18 Feb 11

Sam Hain says...

From now on I shall be referring to the Portfolio Lead for Housing and Development as 'Cllr In-the-Sky'!
From now on I shall be referring to the Portfolio Lead for Housing and Development as 'Cllr In-the-Sky'! Sam Hain
  • Score: 0

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