Taxpayers' money could drive up the standard of rented housing
£9.3bn in housing benefit given to private landlords
More public money than ever before is being spent housing people in privately rented homes that are in poor condition, according to a new report published later this month by the think tank IPPR North. The report argues that local councils could use this housing benefit spending to drive up standards, if they had more control over how it was spent.
The report shows that nearly 1 million vulnerable households, many of whom are in receipt of housing benefit, are now living in inadequate accommodation. In total, over 3 million vulnerable households are now living in the private rented sector.
The report says that privately rented properties are the most expensive and are in the worst condition. Over one third of privately rented homes fail to meet the Decent Homes standard. The report shows that the number of people living in privately rented accommodation and receiving housing benefit has risen by 900,000 in the last 10 years, as the role of local authorities as landlords has halved.
IPPR has a long-term plan to shift housing benefit spend into house building but the new
report argues that all local authorities must make better use of their existing powers to regulate the private rented sector. It recommends that local authorities establish Community Housing Agencies which would match tenants with landlords. These would compete with private letting agents and use profits to improve housing quality by increasing inspections and operating a system of landlord accreditation.
Ed Cox, IPPR North Director, said:
"The ever-rising cost of rent subsidy for those on housing benefit and the growth of an under-regulated private rented sector, means more taxpayers' money than ever before is being paid to private landlords for substandard housing.
"Our research shows that people on the lowest incomes are not only the most likely to live in sub-standard housing but they are also the least likely to have these problems addressed by their landlord. They are also less likely to take action against their landlord for fear of the consequences.
"Local authorities are best placed to identify and determine the properties that most need attention. With powers largely in their possession, local authorities should establish not-for-profit agencies to act as a guardian and gatekeeper for tenants living in the private rented sector."
Notes to Editors
IPPR North's new report - Back to Rising Damp? Addressing housing quality in the Private Rented Sector - will be published in January 2014.
IPPR North's report - Alike in dignity? Housing in Bradford - is available from: http://www.ippr.org/publications/55/9070/alike-in-dignity-housing-in-bradford
IPPR's report - Together at Home - is available from: http://www.ippr.org/publication/55/9279/together-at-home-a-new-strategy-for-housing