A tiny minority of housing benefit claimants are able to find homes in the private market, an investigation has found
Landlords are more willing to house tenants with domestic pets than families who are claiming housing benefit, it has emerged.
A recent analysis of nearly 12,000 online rental listings in England has revealed that the vast majority of lets on the market today make it clear that benefit claimants are not welcome.
The BBC investigation provoked anger with campaign groups saying it discriminates against some of the most vulnerable people in society.
Listings on the popular website SpareRoom.co.uk found that just 2% of the 11,806 adverts on the site were open to people on benefits.
Some of Britain’s biggest cities, including Leicester, Liverpool and Oxford, did not advertise for such claimants at all.
Websites and advertisers use the line “No DSS” – a reference to the former Department for Social Security – when making clear they will not accept housing benefit claimants.
Many housing benefit claimants simply do not disclose that they are receiving the subsidy when looking for a house.
Heather Kennedy, a spokeswoman for the campaign group Digs, told the BBC it was “naked discrimination”.
She told the broadcaster: “People claim housing benefit for different reasons, including because they’re disabled, caring for others or escaping a violent relationship. And as rents have sky-rocketed and wages stagnate, more and more working people are having to claim benefits to cover their rent.
“Landlords and agents have far too much power in relation to ordinary people. The only way to fix this is proper regulation, to protect people from a rental market which the government have now finally accepted is badly broken.”
Housing in Hackney and Enfield
Local councils have used different methods to respond to Britain’s growing housing crisis.
Cllr Rebecca Rennison, Mayoral Adviser for Advice Services and Preventing Homelessness, told Haber: “Eviction from the private rented sector is now the number one cause of homelessness in the borough, owing to a toxic mix of sky-rocking rental costs and damaging Government welfare reforms to Housing Benefit making private rent simply unaffordable to those in receipt of Housing benefits, for Hackney currently running at 42,000 cases.
“Hackney is putting in place support where it can by building more than 9,000 new homes for social rent, shared ownership and outright sale while expanding the number of properties we can use as temporary accommodation.
“However, the statistics continue to speak for themselves with more than 13,000 people now on our housing waiting list, and up to 500 more applying to be added every month.
“Although we were able to offer properties to 1,187 people on our waiting list last year, it would still take more than 10 years to house everybody currently waiting, even if nobody else applied.”
Ahmet Oykener, Enfield’s cabinet member for Housing & Housing Regeneration, told Haber newspaper last month that the council was buying up properties in and around Enfield to be used by people who need temporary accommodation.
The council purchased its 400th property in February, Mr Oykener said, pointing out that it meant they depended less on private landlords.
“By using public funds cleverly, [we] have so far saved £1.5 million in taxpayer funds that we would otherwise have paid to private landlords,” he wrote in Haber last month.
He added: “We are delivering new housing all the time: there will be 16,000 new homes overall in the next 15 years, with at least 2,000 in the next year or two. And the homes we’re building are good quality, meaning you can’t tell the different between a council home and a private house.”