The week started with the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid MP, suggesting to Andrew Marr that the government could borrow to build more homes. He sought to make a clear distinction between bringing down the deficit and taking advantage of low interest rates and borrowing to invest in homes and infrastructure. While the minister was light on detail, it is a change of tack and likely to widen divisions in the Cabinet.
On Tuesday, Parliament discussed the inclusion of rent payments when calculating credit scores, in a debate initiated by Paul Scully, MP for Sutton and Cheam. The RLA supports such moves, and our campaigning efforts were referenced by a number of MPs.
MPs also debated the roll out of Universal Credit in a an emergency debate initiated by Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Debbie Abrahams MP. Labour are calling for the roll out to be paused, and many MPs backed the RLA in calling for tenants to be allowed to choose to have the housing element of UC paid direct to their landlord.
On Thursday, the six week waiting time was also under fire, with the Work and Pensions Select Committee publishing an urgent report calling for the waiting period to be cut to a month. RLA Senior Policy Officer Natalie gave evidence to the committee last month. All of this came as the DWP published updated guides explaining what Universal Credit means for landlords, local authorities and tenants, and a new form for landlords to complete to request payment of rent from a tenant’s Universal Credit.
Ahead of another Labour housing debate, the Government also performed a U-turn on Local Housing Allowance restrictions for social housing. Proposals to cap rents for supported housing, such as sheltered accommodation have been scrapped. The Prime Minister also confirmed proposals to extend the cap to social housing have also been ditched. This leaves only PRS tenants suffering from the LHA cap and freeze and creates a half a billion hole in Government spending plans.
Finally, DCLG published information on tenancy deposit schemes, revealing that some 14 million deposits, with a value of £4.1 billion are being held, and just 1.5% of deposits requiring formal dispute resolution by the schemes.