The coalition government is unhappy – shocked even – at the cost to the Exchequer of Housing Benefit nationally. That concern is quite proper as the annual bill now exceeds £20 billion. Housing Benefit expenditure has risen exponentially in the past 10 years, from £11 billion in 1999/2000 to £20 billion in 2009/10. Clearly something has to be done about the cost to the taxpayer as this is unsustainable in the long-term. But what has caused rents to rise so dramatically? It isn’t rocket science: a shortage of affordable home schemes, such as Local Authority and Housing Association stocks, has meant that more and more people have had to look to the private rental sector to find a home. Within the same street, private landlords charge almost double that which Housing Associations and Local Authorities charge. Landlords realised that the Local Housing Allowance system worked in their favour, they read the newspapers, found out what other landlords were charging for similar properties and did the same. Fortunes have been made from the public purse in this way.
Now the government is cutting expenditure on affordable housing. When you view this act in relation to the above situation it is hard not to draw the conclusion that this is like turkeys voting for Christmas. Until we have a sensible, national strategy for housing people in an affordable framework – that is a provision that is affordable to those renting homes and government expenditure too – we will have ever-increasing chaos and uncertainty, leading to ever-greater homelessness, leading to a situation that will be more and more shameful in a modernised western democracy.