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

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

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

Alison Gelder, Director of Housing Justice, commented: "TheGovernment is proposing revolutionary changes to social housingprovision. It wasn't in their manifestos or the coalition agreementand is now being introduced at a breakneck speed before they haveeven opened the consultation responses. We welcome the opportunityto improve the social housing system but this hurried andill-considered set of proposals is not a sensible wayforward."

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

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

Frank Kantor, Church and Society Secretary of the United ReformedChurch said: "Many of our churches offer practical support forthose at the rough end of the housing system; the street homeless,those in temporary accommodation and those waiting for a place theycan afford. These proposals give no indication that their needswill be met. Given the inadequate consultation process we can'teven say their voices will be heard."