Last Thursday evening, I attended a meeting held by The Camden Federation of Private Tenants (CFPT) in Swiss Cottage Library (an old haunt of mine, where l did my A levels). Now, anyone who knows anything about housing in central London, will be aware, how ignored this particular sector of private tenants are. However as the issue of caps on levels of Housing Benefit continue to rumble on in London, suddenly, this sector of housing provision has been thrown into the spot light..
The emergency budget in June, proposed putting a cap on the maximum Local Housing Allowance (LHA) of 30% of the median, locally. So, the maximum LHA for a 4 bed dwelling in Camden will be £400 per week and £250 for a one bed. These measures have been introduced on the back of a handful of abuses of the system highlighted in the press and not any measured and calm debate about the system and the changes it really needs or the potential impact on the area set to be affected the most – London.
Those in favour have suggested that landlords would absorb these reductions, however, a survey of landlord’s responses to these changes by The London Council suggests otherwise. ( http://www.londoncouncils.gov.uk/housing/briefings/landlordsurvey.htm ) This survey states that 60% of landlords said they would not lower the rent by any amount if the tenant could not pay their rent in full. Even more worryingly, if the shortfall in rent is over £20 per week, almost all landlords said they would evict the tenant or not renew the tenancy at the end of the period, and over a quarter of them said they would decrease the number of properties made available to those in receipt of housing benefit, all of which would serve to accentuate the problem, reduce supply and increase rents further. London Councils estimate that the net result of these changes would be that some 82,000 households in the capital could lose their homes.
Some members of the audience were in favour of rent controls being extended further throughout the sector. As it happens, Ken has also come out in favour of such rent control extension, reminiscent of the era when rent officers at the local housing benefit office had powers to determine rent levels locally (http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/news/housing-management/livingstone-i’ll-cap-private-rents/6511873.article) as a means for the treasury keeping a grip on housing benefit and households claiming it.
The LHA was not the only issue that dominated the evening, as the discussion moved onto the issue of Crown Estate sell offs in central London, particularly Cumberland Market which again are a threat to security of tenure for tenants.
All of this, set against a backdrop from the biggest threat to security of tenure for council tenants, which was made by the PM, when he suggested that it should no longer be regarded as a right for life. Not forgetting, the unaccountability of the many “not so social” Housing Associations in London which have become the favoured agents for solving the social housing conundrum, all of which make for a very uneven playing field for council and housing association tenants who face an uncertain future.
Luckily, there are at least, organisations out there like CFPT which do an excellent job of representing private tenants. CFPT represent tenants not only in Camden but also in other boroughs in central London like the City of Westminster and Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea making them a very deserving candidate for Londonwide funding and not just from within Camden. l’ll certainly be keeping in touch with them, so long may their campaigning and representation work continue
This is one which won’t go away in these austere times. So watch this space!