Housing benefits, London, GMB
© Peter Lovás

A change of policy to shift away from housing benefits to direct provision of council housing is long overdue, it will save money in the long run too, says GMB London

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

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

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

The figures covering 33 London boroughs are set out in the table below, ranked by the highest number of recipients in the private rented sector taken from February 2019. This is from a new study by GMB London Region of official data for 33 councils in London.

It 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.

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.

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

“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 upmarket private homes.”


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