How Hackney housing boom is pricing renters on benefits out of the market

*This article originally appeared on EastLondonLines.co.uk

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Pic: David Holt

Less than 3 per cent of privately rented properties in Hackney are affordable for those reliant on housing benefits, according to Hackney Council.

This is compared to the affordability of 50 per cent of Hackney’s homes before 2011, with increasingly unsustainable shortfalls between market prices and benefits becoming the leading cause of homelessness in the borough.

While housing benefits currently pay out a maximum of £1310.09 per month for a two-bedroom property, the average rent  per calendar month in Hackney comes at £1,820- or £117 a week more than the allowance.

A spokesperson for Hackney Council told EastLondonLines: “Essentially the change is the result of increased housing demand, leading to house prices and rent increasing significantly above housing benefit levels.

“There are currently have over 13,000 on a waiting list and over 500 more are added each month.”

Since the rise in house prices, Hackney Council has taken action in the form of a ‘Better Renting’ campaign- which aims to introduce new regulations for private landlords, and hopefully make lives a little easier for those who find themselves on the receiving end of these shortfalls.

Since the campaign was launched two years ago, the government has met many of the recommendations, including making fire and carbon monoxides a legal requirement, working towards banning rogue landlords and taking action on revenge evictions.

Jamie Dudley, 36, lives in Hackney with his two children and has claimed housing benefit for a number of years. He told EastLondonLines: “There’s so much uncertainty about where our money’s going to come from. I’m a single parent with three mouths to feed- it’s definitely a difficult situation to be in.

“I’ve lived in Hackney my entire life but as the city grows and grows everything is quickly getting more expensive, and even with my job and the help we get, it’s just not enough in comparison to the prices we’re paying.

“Thinking I might have to move out of where I’ve grown up and where my children are growing up … it’s a scary thought.”

It is said up to one third of private rented homes in England don’t meet the Decent Homes Standard, meaning they don’t meet minimum safety levels, are in a poor state of repair, lack modern facilities or don’t have efficient heating and insulation. On top of this, the Better Renting campaign has found that 20,000 private renters in Hackney say their repairs aren’t done when needed.

It is feared the rollout of universal credit could make matters worse. The new policy combines living and housing costs into a single payment- including a six-week wait for recipients receiving their first payment. This could cause up to 85 per cent of tenants to fall behind on rent.

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