Scotland's Housing Minister Attacks Benefit Reform

Latest Landlord News by: Madalena Penny

Scottish Housing Minister Alex Neil

While landlords and LHA tenants in England brace themselves for the impact of ground zero through welfare reform detonation, Scotland’s government have formed an alliance with experts within housing and welfare agencies to gain control and liberate themselves from the UK’s national housing benefit policies due to be introduced in April this year.

Although Scotland administer and control some of their own government policies, welfare is not devolved and they still adhere to central government policies and reform in England.  A recent report concerning the impact which housing benefit and welfare cuts would have on the Scottish economy, implied that 60,000 households would be detrimentally affected by the reform.

The report, ‘Housing Benefit Changes – Scottish Impact Assessment’ indicates that the planned reduction in housing benefit would result in 55,000 Scottish households having little choice to either move from their homes to cheaper accommodation or subsidize the deficit of rent by topping it up themselves, which could leave vulnerable members of society living below the breadline.

Calling the English governments plan, a ‘slash and burn economic policy’, Scotland’s housing minister, Alex Neil said:

“ The veil has been lifted off the UK government’s reckless and ill thought through policies

‘ There needs to be welfare reform but these measures are penalizing the very people we should be protecting”.

The report also claims that as from April, 25-35 year-olds will lose housing benefit that allows them to live independently in their own homes.  The loss of the £55 a week benefit will affect 7,500 people, forcing them into shared accommodation.

Director of Shelter in Scotland, Graeme Brown, said: “These reforms come at a time when more people are facing homelessness.  Ministers must ensure the reforms don’t derail Scotland’s progress towards the Scottish Parliament’s commitment to give everyone the right to a home by 2012.”

This comes at a time when Scotland’s private rented sector are also experiencing the same surge of tenant-demand as their English counterparts.  Research by property services ‘Citylets’ reveals that rents have increased by a further 2.2% in Q4 2010 compared to the same quarter in 2009.  The largest rise was noted in Stirling, where over the course of 2010, rents increased a whopping 15% raising rental value on the average 2-bed flat from £530 to £611 per month.

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