GMB London calls for direct provision of council housing

London receives £2.17bn in housing benefit per year, of which Brent gets the largest share.

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A change of policy to shift away from housing benefits is long overdue, says GMB London.

GMB London advises moving away from housing benefits to a direct provision of council housing, as it will save money in the long run.

196,737 housing benefit recipients in the private rented sector in London receive £2.17bn in housing benefits per year, and Brent tops the list of boroughs with the most recipients.

In February 2019, there were 196,737 recipients of housing benefits in London, representing 23% of all private-rented households in London. With the average recipient receiving around £212 per week, this means housing benefits in London cost the government £2.17bn per year.

The London borough home to the most housing benefit recipients in the private rented sector is Brent, with 15,931. This represents 45.52% of all privately rented households in the borough. Each recipient in Brent receives an estimated £12,450 a year in housing benefits, equating to an estimated spend on housing benefits in Brent at £198.4m per year.

Next in the list is Enfield with 15,826 housing benefit recipients in the private rented sector, who receive a total of £191.8m a year; followed by Barnet with 13,959 recipients, costing a total of £162.3m a year; Newham has 11,698 recipients, totalling £121.9m a year; Ealing has 11,450 recipients, totalling £131m a year; and Haringey has 10,837 residents, totalling £117.1m a year.

This study by GMB London Region, of official data for 33 councils in London, compares the number of privately rented households per borough, the number of those receiving housing benefits, the average a household receives in housing benefits per week and per year, and the cost of housing benefits for the entire borough.

Commenting on the study, Warren Kenny, GMB Regional Secretary, said: “Housing benefit was introduced by the Tories in the 1980s as an alternative to providing genuinely affordable council housing for lower-paid households.

“There was a prejudice against councils providing housing at genuinely affordable rents for lower paid households.”

Kenny added: “Housing benefits has proved to be an incredibly expensive alternative to the direct provision of council housing for lower paid households.

“Any rational approach to policy would seek to reverse this way of paying to house lower-paid households. It is high time that this be widely recognised and that national and local government end the prejudice against council housing.

Kenny continued: “It is 100 years ago that national government made grants available for local government to build huge council estates right across the country. This spirit needs to be found again for a crash programme for new council homes.

“At the same time, there has to be an end to the urge to demolish existing council estates and replace them with up-market private homes.”