More people could be forced into poor quality “beds in sheds” unless restrictions on new shared housing are eased, according to private landlords.
Changes to housing benefit rules mean more younger people are chasing rooms in shared houses – and MPs on the Works and Pensions select committee has warned that that risks pushing more vulnerable tenants into inappropriate housing.
The committee’s report says the benefit changes – increasing the age limit at which single claimants can only claim for a room in a shared house from 25 to 35 – “may have reduced the availability of safe, appropriate accommodation for younger people, some of whom may be vulnerable”.
It says that if the government found people were being put at risk, it should “investigate introducing exemptions for vulnerable people, and take steps to increase provision of appropriate accommodation.”
But the Residential Landlords’ Association (RLA), which represents private landlords, warns that planning rules are making it difficult to provide the new shared homes needed to keep up with demand.
Already, research by the charity Crisis has found that 74% of housing advisers are struggling to find housing for young people only eligible for the shared accommodation rate. Advisers reported that their clients are often competing for the same properties as young professionals on higher incomes. And a survey of RLA members found that 55% thought there were insufficient shared homes to cope with the benefit changes.
Now the RLA is writing to planning minister Nick Boles calling for a review of the planning rules – known as Article 4 directions – which it says is preventing private landlords from providing enough good shared homes to meet demand.
RLA chairman Alan Ward said: “Today’s select committee report is a clear warning about the dangers of restricting the supply of vital shared housing at a time when many, whether claiming housing benefits or not, are looking to such properties as a place to live.
“The RLA is calling on ministers to review urgently the impact that Article 4 Directions used by many local authorities are having on the supply of shared homes. Without this, there is a very real danger that many potentially vulnerable tenants could find themselves being driven into the kind of beds in sheds accommodation that is simply unacceptable for anyone to find themselves living in.”