Exclusive: Housing crisis sees council spending on discretionary housing payments soar
PUBLISHED: 16:40 15 December 2014 | UPDATED: 17:01 15 December 2014
A sharp rise in spending to help people in hardship pay their rent has sparked fears that council services could be impacted.
Cllr Muhammed Javed, cabinet member for housing, issued the warning after it was revealed applications for discretionary housing payments had soared.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request has revealed spending on the payments, which cover the gap between rent and housing benefit, has jumped from £90,640 in the year 2009/10 to £1,532,263 in 2013/14.
Applications have also risen and more people are being rejected.
Cllr Javed said: “The number of claimants has gone up as people can’t afford to pay their rent.
“The housing crisis is right across London, including Redbridge, and it is a concern.
“The council is under severe pressure from the savings it needs to make, which mean we have to make cutbacks or reduce services.
“You can’t predict the future, but if applications continue to increase, services will be affected all round.”
Lt John Clifton, from the Ilford Salvation Army, said the figures point to wider problems.
“The staggering rise of discretionary payments is concrete evidence of the housing crisis we are facing.
“Rents are sky-high, but it all goes back to affordable housing. If you don’t have this, people have to find somewhere outside the borough and start again, without their whole support network.
“We need more of it.”
Phil Herbert, managing director of the Healthy Living Project, said discretionary payments help vulnerable people to secure homes.
He said: “At the Welcome Centre, where many of our clients experience homelessness, it’s a lifesaver.”
Cllr Javed said changes to benefits, such as the introduction of the bedroom tax, have exacerbated the situation.
The measure deducts 14 per cent of people’s housing benefit if they have one “spare” bedroom.
Cllr Javed added: “There is also a problem with the growing population, both within and outside, and that means an increase on demand.
“Our aim is to build new homes, which we have already started, and make more homeless hostels.”
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