17 January 2011

Parliament to vote on radical housing reform measures before consultation has ended

This afternoon, Parliament will vote on radical social housing reform measures in the Localism Bill more than two hours before the consultation on the measures is due to end, making it impossible for consultation responses to influence the vote.

Housing Justice, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, and the United Reformed Church have responded to the Department of Communities and Local Government's consultation but fear their responses will be ignored.

Alison Gelder, Director of Housing Justice, commented: "The Government is proposing revolutionary changes to social housing provision. It wasn't in their manifestos or the coalition agreement and is now being introduced at a breakneck speed before they have even opened the consultation responses. We welcome the opportunity to improve the social housing system but this hurried and ill-considered set of proposals is not a sensible way forward."

The Government also plans to introduce an 'affordable rent' scheme, which will mean that some families living in social housing may have to pay up to £800 per week, when housing benefit is capped at £400 per week. "Any government-funded housing entitled 'affordable rent' should be affordable for those on benefits - anything else is unjust and misleading," said Paul Morrison, Policy Advisor for the Methodist Church. "The backdrop to these changes is huge cuts to housing benefit, with an estimated 1.3 million families worse off because of the proposals, but the Government has failed to highlight this in their plans."

"The Government talks about greater democratic involvement, and states that involving the public in government should be integral to policy-making," added Revd Graham Sparkes, Head of Faith and Unity for the Baptist Union of Great Britain. "Yet now we discover that crucial votes on housing reform are taking place without even considering evidence submitted through the consultation process. Such action is unacceptable."

Frank Kantor, Church and Society Secretary of the United Reformed Church said: "Many of our churches offer practical support for those at the rough end of the housing system; the street homeless, those in temporary accommodation and those waiting for a place they can afford. These proposals give no indication that their needs will be met. Given the inadequate consultation process we can't even say their voices will be heard."

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