Support for Tenants with Rent Arrears

Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at 2:36 pm on 17th May 2021.

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Photo of Nigel Mills Nigel Mills Conservative, Amber Valley 2:36 pm, 17th May 2021

What steps her Department is taking to ensure that the welfare system helps support tenants with rent arrears to sustain their tenancies.

Photo of Will Quince Will Quince The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

At the start of the pandemic, we invested almost £1 billion in local housing allowance rates, and we have made £140 million available in discretionary housing payment funding for local authorities in England and Wales, to support those struggling with housing costs. We continue to work closely with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to support people to sustain their tenancies.

Photo of Nigel Mills Nigel Mills Conservative, Amber Valley

I thank the Minister for that answer. Would he accept, however, that there are many tenants who, through no fault of their own, will be in significant rent arrears and therefore facing eviction in the next few months, and will he therefore work on a cross-Government basis to find a solution that means those arrears can be cleared over a sensible period and those tenancies secured?

Photo of Will Quince Will Quince The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. We continue to work very closely with the MHCLG to find long-term solutions to housing challenges. Work coaches are trained to identify people with potential housing issues and to provide tailored support, including referrals to homelessness services or debt advice. Discretionary housing payments are available, and the Government will make available a £310 million homelessness prevention grant for local authorities. However, I would of course be very happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss what further measures we may be able to take.

Photo of Karen Buck Karen Buck Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

With the end of the eviction ban imminent, more than half of claimants needing help with housing costs face a shortfall between the help available and their actual rent—£100 a month in the case of universal credit claimants. The Government always say that discretionary housing payments are the answer to these shortfalls, so can the Minister explain to us why discretionary housing payments have suffered a real-terms cut and will be lower this year than they were before the pandemic?

Photo of Will Quince Will Quince The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I thank the hon. Lady for that question. We take this issue incredibly seriously. That is why we pumped an additional nearly £1 billion into the local housing allowance and have frozen it in cash terms for a further year, and why we have the two-week run-on of housing benefit, direct payments to landlords available, £140 million in DHPs, the homelessness prevention grant, work coach support and, of course, Money and Pensions Service support. We stand ready to support any tenant who needs that support to sustain their tenancy and prevent homelessness.