The government is expecting to spend and eye-watering £30 billion on housing benefit for tenants this year, DWP minister Will Quince has told parliament.
This figure is £8-10 billion more than the Office for Budget Responsibility forecast would be needed for 2020/21 before the pandemic struck and reflects the huge financial strain the welfare state is under during Covid.
Quince’s answer came in response to questions from several MPs in parliament who are concerned that rent arrears are building to unsustainable levels.
Conservative MP Bob Blackman (pictured) said that: “The evidence produced by the National Residential Landlords Association and a lot of housing charities demonstrates that rent arrears are growing and growing very fast such that they will probably never be repaid.”
Quince, who is the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the DWP, said Ministers were worried by the problem of mounting rent arrears too but said the government’s huge housing bill and other measures demonstrated it was doing all it could to support struggling tenants on benefits.
He also said the £30 billion excluded the £1 billion spent on raising the Local Housing Allowance threshold to the 30th percentile, and that landlords and tenants are now able to request that rent is paid direct to a landlord online if ‘financial harm’ is likely.
But as LandlordZONE has reported many times in the past, the Alternative Payment Arrangements or APAs Quince refers to are not as easy to arrange as he claims.
Landlords requesting APAs can face a glacially slow and often unstaffed bureaucracy which is too easily outwitted by tenants intent on pocketing housing benefits payment rather than passing them on to landlords.