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Housing Benefit (York)

Volume 549: debated on Monday 3 September 2012

The Petition of residents of York,

Declares that York is facing a housing crisis, with homelessness in York in 2010/11 40% up on the previous year; further declares that the Government’s reforms to Housing Benefits mean that of 6,299 private rented properties previously affordable in the city, 3,700 will be lost, a reduction of almost 50%; declares that this is effectively driving people out of York and away from their jobs, families and friends; and declares that York’s Broad Market Rental Area, which determines the level of Housing Benefit currently available, should be based on the York Unitary Authority area and not on neighbouring towns including, Tadcaster, Selby, and Pocklington, all of which. have lower rents than York, in order to reduce the pressure on people to move away from the city which is their home.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to make changes to the boundary of the York Broad Market Rental Area to include only the York Unitary Authority area.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Hugh Bayley, Official Report, 26 June 2012; Vol. 547, c. 276.]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, received 31 August 2012:

The Government believe it is important that people claiming housing benefit should face the same choices about where to live as people not claiming housing benefit. That is why the Local Housing Allowance for people in private rented sector accommodation is set at the 30 percentile of market rents in a given Broad Rental Market Area. This means that around a third of the properties in the area are affordable within Local Housing Allowance rates, but they are not intended to meet rents in all areas.

Broad Rental Market Areas define a geographical area used to determine the LHA rate. It is an area where a person could reasonably be expected to live taking into account access to facilities and services for the purposes of health, education, recreation, personal banking and shopping.

The Government recognise that within any Broad Rental Market Area, some localities will be more affordable to people claiming housing benefit than others. This is because these areas, including the City of York, are highly desirable places to live. But it is not right for the taxpayer to foot the bill for benefit claimants to live in areas that many low income people not claiming benefits could not afford.

When determining a Broad Rental Market Area the Rent Officer takes account of the distance of travel, by public and private transport, to and from these facilities and services. Rent Officers consult with local authorities when they determine and review the boundaries, which do not have to match the boundaries of a local authority and will often fall across more than one local authority area.

We are confident that the area boundaries are compliant with legislation. The Broad Rental Market Area in York was reviewed in January 2009, and amended accordingly to reflect access to facilities in line.

The vast majority of journeys from the outskirts of the Broad Rental Market Area into the centre of York take around an hour or less by bus, and therefore the main facilities, services and employment opportunities should be accessible to most people.

Government have no plans to change the way Broad Rental Market Areas are determined.