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Churches fear for housing victims

20 January 2011

by a staff reporter

PLANS to reform social-housing provision radically were passed by MPs this week — before the period of consultation over the legislation had ended.

A coalition of Churches has complained about the speed of progression through Parliament of the Local­ism Bill, which allows local authorities to offer new tenants shorter, fixed tenancies and accommodation in the private sector, instead of being obliged to find social housing.

The Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church, and the charity Housing Justice responded to the consultation from the Department of Communities and Local Government, but fear that their responses will be ignored, now that the Bill has passed through the Commons.

The policy adviser to the Methodist Church, Paul Morrison, said: “This Bill is giving councils the power to do really unpleasant things, and it is putting local authorities in an appalling position. Instead of giving someone a permanent home, those in need will be given short-term tenancies.

“If you think about the Big Society and all David Cameron’s rhetoric on that, and then you look at areas where rental housing is concentrated, some 40 per cent of tenants change every year. How is ex-tending that across the country going to build community?”

The Government also plans to introduce an “affordable rent” scheme, which will mean that some families living in social housing may have to pay up to £800 per week, when housing benefit is capped at £400 per week.

The Archbishop of Canterbury warned, when the legislation was first unveiled, that the plans to cap housing benefit could lead to social zoning, and the pushing of the poor out of more expensive areas, such as London and the south-east (News, 12 November).

Mr Morrison said: “The backdrop to these changes is huge cuts to housing benefit, with an estimated 1.3 million families worse off because of the proposals, but the Government have failed to highlight this in their plans.”

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