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23 January 2014

Government responds to Welsh Affairs Committee report on impact of changes to HB in Wales

The Welsh Affairs Committee published its Fourth Special Report for Session 2013-14, HC 1012 on The impact of changes to housing benefit in Wales: Government Response to the Committee’s Second Report of Session 2013-14 on Thursday 23 January 2014.

The Government has responded to the Committee’s recommendations in its Report on the impact of changes to housing benefit in Wales, published in October 2013.

The Committee’s key conclusions were:

- The under-occupancy policy affects proportionally more housing benefit claimants in Wales than elsewhere in Great Britain and the Committee heard that that there could be a shortage of one and two bedroom homes in Wales to re-house everyone who wants to downsize as a result of the policy. If local authorities are struggling to find alternative smaller accommodation for tenants Government should undertake a speedy review of this policy.

- The UK Government policy on under-occupancy makes it increasingly urgent for the Welsh Government to continue with its house-building programme, with a particular focus on the building of smaller sized properties: obviously this is a long-term solution that would require additional resources.

- If no social housing is available, tenants may need to move to the private rented sector. Government needs to monitor rental costs in the private rental market in Wales following the introduction of the policy.

- The costs of moving disabled households who require the adaptations is a concern, and Government should closely monitor the impact of the policy on local authorities and disabled tenants with adapted properties to determine whether there is a case for exempting them from the policy.

- The Government’s proposal to pay housing benefit direct to social tenants under Universal Credit may result in some tenants being unable to manage their rent payments and falling into debt. If this happens on a large scale, the direct payments policy will be a failure. The Committee recommends that the Government provide for housing benefit to be paid direct to the landlords in certain circumstances, for example after a specified period of non-payment.

Copies of the Report can be ordered from The Stationery Office (Tel: 0845 702 3474) or from the Parliamentary Bookshop (Tel: 020 7219 3890). It can also be viewed at: http://www.parliament.uk/welshcom