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Britain 'on edge of a serious housing crisis'

The Citizens Advice Bureau has warned that the UK is "on the edge of a serious housing crisis" after releasing data on the increase in cases it has dealt with relating to rent arrears and threatened homelessness.

There are simply not enough homes to meet need and the result is yet more pressure on household budgets.

...The emerging trend of increasing social housing arrears is extremely worrying.

Cases of arrears are up across every region of England, with the Midlands and parts of the North showing the starkest deterioration.

Prices which far outstrip incomes and the damaging impact of high food and energy bills make paying rent simply impossible for many people.

– Gillian Guy, Citizens Advice Bureau Chief Executive,

The charity said that the impact of welfare reform is "crucial" and said that recent reforms that have been "rushed in without a proper safety net in place".

Figures on increase in social housing rent arrears

In the second quarter of this year, Citizens Advice Bureau gave advice on:

  • 22,412 issues about social housing rent arrears - a 13 per cent increase on the same period last year
  • 2,840 issues about possessions claims due to rent arrears in the social housing sector - a 38 per cent increase on the same period last year
  • 2,736 issues about threatened homelessness in social housing - a 12 per cent increase on the same period last year
  • 3,307 issues about Discretionary Housing Payments - a 110 per cent increase on the same period last year.

Of all the charity's clients advised about debt issues:

  • 45 per cent are social tenants
  • 31 per cent are private tenants
  • 20 per cent are buying their home
  • 5 per cent own their home outright.

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Homelessness threat 'rising for social tenants'

Social housing tenants are facing an increased threat of homelessness, the Citizen's Advice Bureau has warned, after cases of rent arrears cases reported to the charity rose 13 per cent from July to September this year.

Social housing rent arrears cases reported from July to September increased by 13 per cent since the same period last year. Credit: PA

Citizens Advice warned that despite growing confidence in the UK's economic recovery, households are not yet feeling the benefit of the improved economic outlook.

It suggested that the impact of the Under-Occupancy Penalty, combined with changes to Council Tax support, has contributed heavily to rent arrears problems

Instances of Citizens Advice Bureaux advising clients about Discretionary Housing Payments, to help people pay their rent, have more than doubled in the six months since April this year when the charge for under-occupancy was introduced.

Chris Bryant criticises social housing report

Labour MP Chris Bryant has criticised the latest report on social housing from think-tank Policy Exchange on Twitter.

Labour: Social housing sale proposals 'process of erosion'

Labour MP Karen Buck told BBC Radio 4 that social housing proposals outlined by influential think-tank Policy Exchange will force lower income families out of more affluent areas creating segregated communities of rich and poor.

The MP who represents Westminster North said:

Effectively the outcome [of what is proposed] is to reduce the stock of properties for lower income households, many of whose communities have lived there forever, in favour of an inflated, overseas, money driven housing market.

It's a process of erosion, quite dramatic erosion, because we would be getting rid of another third of all social housing from these communities over the course a decade... properties that already exist.

– Labour MP Karen Buck

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Prescott criticises 'unworkable and idiotic' housing plans

Grant Shapps 'determined to get Britain building'

I've been determined that we get Britain building and help the thousands of families who for years have been left languishing on social housing waiting lists.

That's why we've introduced radical reforms, including investing £19.5 billion public and private funding into an affordable housing programme set to exceed expectations and deliver up to 170,000 homes, and giving councils the flexibility to offer fixed-term tenancies to new tenants to ensure the precious resource of social housing goes to those in greatest need.

On top of this, councils looking to sell vacant social housing can now keep the receipts to invest in affordable housing, regeneration or paying down housing debt in their area.

And the reinvigorated Right to Buy is helping existing council tenants realise their dream of home ownership with increased discounts of up to £75,000, and for the first time a commitment to replace additional council homes sold with new affordable homes for rent on a one-for-one basis nationally.

– Housing Minister Grant Shapps

Policy Exchange: 'Expensive social housing is costly, unpopular and unfair'

Expensive social housing is costly, unpopular and unfair. That is why almost everybody rejects it.

Social housing tenants deserve a roof over their heads but not one better than most people can afford, particularly as expensive social housing means less social housing and so longer waiting lists for most people in need.

– Alex Morton, report author 'Ending Expensive Social Tenancies'

Selling vacant social housing 'would raise £4.5bn a year'

Policy Exchange's Ending Expensive Social Tenancies report says that properties worth more than the average house price for an area account for one in five of the social housing stock.

The 816,000 homes have a total value of £159 billion, with £71.9 billion of that in London.

Around 3.5% of the buildings become vacant each year and, after debts are paid off, would raise £4.5 billion.

The report suggests that the money should be earmarked to build additional homes and recommended introducing spending floors to ensure standards are driven up in the quality of stock.

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