Eastbourne’s MP has this week warned that there will be a rise in homelessness if Universal Credit is not fixed.
Stephen Lloyd argued in Parliament that the government could reduce pressure on the housing market by making a few small alterations to the administration of the housing element of its flagship welfare policy.
During the debate on Tuesday (January 9), MPs from Labour, the SNP, the DUP and three Conservatives agreed with Mr Lloyd’s asks which included making automatic rental payments direct to landlords.
A move, Mr Lloyd argued, which would entice landlords to let properties to renters receiving housing benefit.
He said, “The Residential Landlords Association have told me that only 13 per cent of their members (private landlords) are willing to let their properties to claimants of Universal Credit.
“Around 1.3m renters in the UK receive help with their rent, so one can easily imagine the scale of the crisis if only 13 per cent of landlords are willing to rent to them.
“The sector, local authorities and charities agree with me, that this will inevitably lead to yet another rise in homelessness. And it is unavoidable!”
He continued, “Politicians in Northern Ireland secured direct payments to landlords by default as well as two-weekly payments more than five years ago.
“So it comes as no surprise that the percentage of people in rent arrears in Northern Ireland is by far the lowest across the UK. Why can’t the government replicate this arrangement across the entirety of the UK?”
Mr Lloyd in the past called the execution of Universal Credit a ‘train wreck’. Despite initially voting for the policy while in the coalition government, the MP argued that since then £3 billion had been taken from the programme.
He said, “This government committed to a ‘test+learn’ approach to the roll-out of Universal Credit, yet has taken five years to make any changes to the administration of the housing element.
“I welcome their changes in the recent budget and hope they listen to my demands, shared by the entire rental sector; make payments direct to landlords of all Universal Credit recipients and make it automatic.
“In a swoop a fundamental structural weakness of the benefit will be fixed. Failure to do so will see a growing number of evictions both in Eastbourne and the rest of the country, which is simply not right.”
The single monthly payment replacing some benefits and tax credits was rolled out across Eastbourne in October.
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