The National Housing Federation (NHF) last week released data about the cost – borne by the taxpayer – of housing benefit, which has risen to £9.3billion, double the amount paid out 10 years ago and the Sunday newspapers knew that the public would be furious.
Most of the Sunday papers inferred that the growth in costs was, once again, down to greedy landlords and unscrupulous agents who charge fees to tenants; once again ignoring the true situation, that there is a massive shortage of housing because councils and housing associations are not building enough social housing, builders are not building enough homes for people to buy and the Government’s Right to Buy scheme is removing more homes for the social sector than it is building.
The view from the national press is that private landlords are getting rich quick, with their pockets lined by high rents paid by housing benefit.
David Orr (left), Chief Executive at the National Housing Federation said: “It is madness to spend £9 billion of taxpayers’ money lining the pockets of private landlords rather than investing in affordable homes.
“Housing associations want to build the homes nation needs. By loosening restrictions on existing funding, the Government can free up housing associations to build more affordable housing at better value to the taxpayer and directly address the housing crisis.”
Richard Lambert (right), Chief Executive Officer at the National Landlords Association (NLA), is unimpressed, “Housing benefit is not a subsidy to landlords; it’s a support for tenants to ensure they can pay for their housing. However, the proportion of landlords who let to tenants in receipt of housing benefit has halved over the last five years as benefit levels have not kept up with rents.
“The NHF is clearly still reeling from the news that its members have been ordered by government to reduce spending over the next four years, so it comes as no surprise that they are looking to shift the emphasis and point the finger elsewhere.
“The private rented sector has grown as the market responds to the increasing demand for homes, particularly from a growing proportion of tenants whom the social sector and housing associations simply are not able to support in the current circumstances.
“The private rented sector plays a significant role in providing much-needed homes for tenants so there seems no real benefit in the NHF taking a cheap shot at landlords. What we should all be talking about is the failure of successive governments to adequately allocate its housing budget and to incentivise the building of new homes. In the long term, that would be the best use of taxpayers’ money.”