Sex-for-accommodation and denying housing benefit to 18-21 year olds

BBC South East has done a great public service by uncovering the sex-for-rent scandal where young people are asked to provide sexual ‘favours’ in return for accommodation. The report on tonight’s programme (13th April) shows the need for a change in the law as this arrangement is not illegal.

Demanding sex for accommodation has not been an uncommon reality for homeless people for many years.

Earlier this month the government withdrew the automatic right of young people aged 18 to 21 to claim housing benefit. While there are some exemptions, up to 11,000 are expected to be affected over the next few years.

That seems like a sensible policy in light of tonight’s exposure ….! What do politicians think young people will do if they can’t get help towards their housing costs?

House Price Disaster Forecast

House prices will leap more than £50,000 higher by 2021 on average despite Brexit uncertainty, with the average UK house price in 2017 will be £220,000, marking a £9,000 increase compared with 2016, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr).

By 2021, the average home is set to be worth around £272,000, its report predicts – a £52,000 increase compared with 2017. No doubt house prices in Brighton and Hove will increase by more.

In some quarters this is seen as good news. I think it is a disaster. The housing market is completely out of control. The only ones who will be able to afford homes in Brighton and Hove will be the rich and the very rich.

As someone said to me last week, the market in Brighton is a national and an international one. Housing need is local.

Last Wednesday I spoke at the Chamber of Commerce Construction Voices event. At it I said: “With each new administration on the local council, there has been an element of ‘optimism bias’, believing that they will be the ones to turn things around. Yet many major projects have failed, since as early as the 1970s, to get off the ground. Unless we massively increase the supply of affordable homes, unless we have greater imagination and perhaps new partnerships, we will not meet the housing needs of local people, and Brighton and Hove could slip into becoming a dormitory town with the creative minds looking elsewhere to flourish and grown. How long will it be before Hastings takes over from Brighton?”

11,000 18 to 21 year olds lose the right to claim housing benefit

Since Monday, those under 21 have lost the automatic right to claim housing benefit when making new claims.  It is estimated that 1,000 will be affected this year and up to 11,000 by 2020/21.

The government expects to save £105m with the cut through the life of this parliament, with set-up costs of £5m and running costs estimated at between £0.5m and £1m per year.

I have previously referred to research by Heriott Watt University that calculated that once exceptions and costs incurred on other public services were taken into account, the policy could save just £3.3 million a year.  If just 140 young people end up on the streets, the additional cost to other services (ambulance service, NHS, housing departments, police, etc.) then this measure will actually be a drain on public finances!

In Wednesday’s Argus (5th April 2017), I was quoted as saying: “Desperate times for young people will see them return to unsafe family situations, turn to crime and prostitution, and end up sleeping rough.

“For most 18 to 21-year-olds life is a big adventure but for those on the streets it can turn into the worst of all nightmares. They have hopes and aspirations but if you are on the streets it is a day to day struggle for survival.”

This policy makes no sense in economic on humanitarian grounds.

Please support the Fabulous Four running the Brighton Marathon for BHT

There are four amazing people running the Brighton Marathon for First Base Day Centre this Sunday:  Melanie Atkinson, Tony Felstead, Benny Coxhill and Andrew Westhead Please click here, here, here and here for their JustGiving pages.

Our thanks to Creative Benefits who are sponsoring our running vests.

Tenants’ deposit regulations are ten years old today!

It was 10 years ago today (6 April 2007) that tenant deposit regulations were introduced. How sad it is, therefore, that so many don’t know that deposit regulations exist and that some landlords are still not adhering to the regulations.

Last year a report stated that 1 in 6 landlords were not protecting deposits, suggesting that £514 million of deposit money was not protected. At our Advice Centres in Hastings, Brighton and Eastbourne it is not uncommon to find that tenants deposits have not been protected.

Tenancy deposit protection rules say landlords must both:

  • protect a tenant’s deposit with a tenancy deposit protection scheme
  • provide the tenant with information about the scheme used.

There are three scheme providers. Click on the schemes and then put in very basic tenant details and it should show whether deposit is protected.

Deposit Protection Service (DPS)

Dispute service (TDS)

mydeposits

Landlords can either pay a tenant’s money into the provider’s custodial tenancy deposit scheme or can pay the scheme to insure the money. The landlord has to protect the deposit for the whole time the tenant remains at the same property.  If the landlord uses a tenancy deposit protection insurance scheme, they’ll have to renew the insurance if they renew the tenancy or if the tenant stays on after the end of the tenancy’s fixed term.  If the landlord pays the deposit into a tenancy deposit custodial scheme, the deposit continues to be protected so long as it remains there.

That five out of six landlords are protecting deposits is a cause to celebrate the deposit scheme’s tenth birthday. Let’s hope it doesn’t take a further ten years before all deposits are protected.

Does Political Tyranny Know No Bounds? Just look at the Greens in Brighton and Hove

From the ultra repressive regime of North Korea to ….. the Green Group on Brighton and Hove City Council. The unacceptable face of political oppression, forcing unwilling individuals to fall into line.

The Greens used to boast that they have no whip, but tonight the Rubicon was crossed. While most councillors were more than happy to don blue and white to show solidarity with Brighton and Hove Albion, one poor councillor was forced to display love and devotion to the Seagulls, much as ordinary folk are required to do in North Korea in praise of the Beloved Leader.

The Seagulls are second in the Championship, one above nearest rivals Huddersfield Town. Just two teams will secure automatic promotion. Will it be Brighton and Hove Albion, or will Huddersfield Town pip them at the post? All City Councillors turned out in blue and white this evening to promote the Albion’s cause. Even Cllr David Gibson, obeying, no doubt, a three line whip.

Cllr Gibson is a life long Huddersfield Town supporter and the photo below (David is second from the right) shows just how happy he feels about wearing the blue and white, a reaction that would have got him executed in North Korea.

7,585 families have their weekly housing benefit cut to just 50p per week

Housing Benefit was introduced many years ago to help people who were struggling to pay their rents.  More now than ever before is it needed, as house prices spiral out of control.  More than 90% of new claims for housing benefit in recent years have been made by people in low paid employment.

But rather than tackle the crisis of supply and affordability, a cap has been imposed on how much benefit can be claimed, and the first thing to go is the financial support towards rents.

A Panorama survey has found that thousands of families hit by the benefit cap have been left with just 50p a week towards their rent, and that 7,585 families had had their weekly housing benefit cut to this level.

The cap has been reduced to £23,000 per annum for a household in London and £20,000 in the rest of the country. For a single person it is much less, £15,410 a year in London, £13,400 elsewhere.  The average annual rent for a one bed flat in Brighton is £11,652.

The amount of money above the limit is taken from housing benefit or Universal Credit.

I always try to make a comment at the end of a post like this, but I think that this situation speaks for itself, and the consequences are obvious if someone simply gets just 50p per week towards their rent.