John Healey MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Housing and Planning, today warned that thousands of specialist supported homes in the North East face closure as a result of Government cuts.
Cuts to housing benefit, outlined in the small print of Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement, will mean housing providers face a shortfall in funding for specialist supported accommodation. Providers across the UK have warned that, as a result, thousands of homes face closure.
According to Government data, there are a total of 11,386 specialist homes provided by housing associations in Tyneside, Wearside & County Durham, of which 8469 are specialist homes for the elderly.
County Durham could be one the hardest hit area in the country potentially. There are more supported homes provided by housing associations in Country Durham than any other local authority area in England except Birmingham.
Supported housing includes specialist homes for the older people, people with disabilities and mental health problems, veterans, homeless people and women fleeing domestic violence.
Mr Healey made the comments after a visit to the region. Mr Healey dropped in on Avondale House which provides homes for veterans in Byker before visiting Gentoo Housing’s new Haddington Vale development, a state-of-the-art extra care home providing supported accommodation for older people in Doxford Park, Sunderland.
John Healey said:
“George Osborne’s crude cut to housing benefit has put at risk thousands of specialist supported homes, like those I visited today in Newcastle and Sunderland. The Chancellor must think again, and immediately exempt specialist supported housing from these cuts.
“Supported homes are a lifeline for many thousands of elderly, former service personnel, disabled and homeless people, as well as those recovering from addiction or fleeing domestic violence. The potential closure of thousands of homes will leave vulnerable people with nowhere else to turn.
“I saw during my visits to Byker and Sunderland how important these supported homes are for many vulnerable people in this region. Labour will continue to fight to secure the future of these homes for those who rely on them.”
· The relevant housing benefit changes were detailed in the small-print of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement and propose a new low cap on housing benefit costs across all types of social housing, equivalent to the local housing allowance rate for private rented tenants, without any concession for supported accommodation. It was originally announced that it would affect all new tenancies signed after April 2016, and come into force from April 2018. The announcement in the Written Ministerial Statement today means that the change is not set to affect new tenancies signed before April 2017.
· Specialist supported housing is generally more expensive to run than other types of accommodation because of the support needs of its tenants and so generally charges higher rents, which are often met by housing benefit.
· John Healey revealed the potential scale of the problem at the end of December (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-35173650), by releasing analysis from the PlaceShapers group of housing associations.
· Since then, the National Housing Federation has released figures showing that 156,000 specialist homes face closure – equivalent to 41% of this type of housing: http://www.housing.org.uk/press/press-releases/older-people-disabled-people-and-most-vulnerable-to-lose-68-a-week/.
· Labour called an opposition day debate on these proposed changes for Wednesday 27 January: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm160127/debtext/160127-0001.htm#16012749000294.