Local Housing Allowance and Homelessness — [Mr Adrian Bailey in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:43 am on 24th July 2019.

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Photo of Will Quince Will Quince The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 10:43 am, 24th July 2019

Not necessarily. They have been available since 2011, and more than £1 billion has been made available to local authorities. Quite intentionally, we allow local authorities discretion on how it is used, and they use that money and use it well. There is an underspend in a number of local authorities, but it is a tool used by many local authorities to prevent homelessness. Where individuals or families are at risk of homelessness, local authorities will use DHPs to protect tenancies.

Dr Drew has raised the point about broad rental market areas a few times; I note his concerns about the broad rental market area boundaries in Stroud and the wider area. As with all policies, we keep that under review, and I am looking at this very closely. I hope the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that any reform of the policy would be a significant and complex undertaking, given that there are 192 broad market rental areas across England, Scotland and Wales. We should be aware that any changes to the BMRAs and their boundaries are likely to create both winners and losers, so I have to give very careful consideration to the potential impact.

The hon. Gentleman also raised a point about “No DSS”—landlords not renting to those in receipt of benefits. The Prime Minister and No. 10 have taken that issue very seriously. I attended a recent roundtable with a number of stakeholders and we are working very closely with the Residential Landlords Association. Part of the issue is mortgage lenders and insurers. More and more mortgage lenders are now reducing or removing their restrictions on renting to those in the receipt of benefits—Metro Bank is the most recent addition to that list. There are a few still to go, and we still have to tackle the insurance market, as some insurance policies still do not allow people who buy to let to rent to those in receipt of benefits. We are looking at that area closely and are working with key stakeholders, because we very much want to fix this—to break the myth and challenge the ignorant belief that those in receipt of benefits are riskier tenants than those who are not, because it is absolutely untrue.

The hon. Member for Ealing, Southall also raised temporary accommodation. With other Government Departments, we are working to assess what more can be done to address the number of people in temporary accommodation. Time spent in temporary accommodation means that people are getting help and ensures that no family is without a roof over their heads. The Government have targeted funding streams focused on reducing the number of households in temporary accommodation as part of our £1.2 billion spending plan.