The following is my column in the Barnsley Chronicle, which appeared on the 27th October:
A good, secure house is something we should all be able to aspire to attain, but sometimes housing is more than just a home.
For many people here in Barnsley, services provided by their supported housing is an essential part of day to day life.
From accessing social care, helping with everyday tasks such as preparing meals and medication, or increasing access to treatments services for physical and mental health problems, supported housing provides vital assistance to some of the most vulnerable people in our community.
Not surprisingly, these services mean that rent for supported housing is generally higher than average prices for other rented homes.
But the Government announced plans to cap housing benefit that helps vulnerable people afford their supported housing at the Local Housing Allowance (LHA).
LHA payment is calculated on average rents in the area, leading to a postcode-lottery where areas like ours receive less due to lower house prices.
In fact, Barnsley’s LHA is one of the lowest in the country; a LHA payment for a two-bedroom house in Barnsley is around £87 per week, compared to £107 a few miles away in Sheffield.
But with supported housing costing around £113 in Barnsley for a two-bedroom home, vulnerable people in our community are facing a devastating gap between their rent and the money they have available to pay it.
And that’s why this policy is potentially damaging; there’s a very real chance it could force many people who are often suffering with physical or mental health problems out of their homes.
But it’s not just those already in supported housing who face uncertainty.
Those who are doing their best to get on the housing ladder and purchase a home are struggling too, and it’s no wonder why.
Housebuilding since 2010 is at its lowest level since the 1920s, and there are almost 200,000 fewer homeowners.
So whilst the Government hinted on Wednesday that they may eventually U-turn on their plans to cap housing benefit, they’ve yet to provide any concrete details as to how they intend to address the housing insecurities facing so many people.
It’s about time the Government rethinks these policies and begins to provide sustainable housing security that people here in Barnsley desperately need.