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Why Nobody Agrees With Polly Toynbee About Housing Benefit

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And then there is housing benefit. We knew the bill was big and rising, and we knew that landlords found all sorts of ways to take advantage of the payments. But until Osborne announced a cap on weekly payments who knew that the state was paying £100,000 a year plus in rent for some families? If a tax-paying family wanted to clear £100,000 after tax to pay rent they'd have to earn £165,000. That's just for the rent. No wonder the housing benefit bill has hit £20bn a year. Or that it has doubled in a decade. It now costs us more than the police and university combined.

So here's the big question: are the changes to housing benefit suggested in the CSR fair? Lots of newspaper columnists don't think so. They say that it will mean key workers can't live near their work and that expensive areas of London in particular will be "cleansed" of the poor. They also worry that, combined with the rebasing of the rate at which benefit is paid from 50% of median rents to 30%, it will cause hardship across the UK.

But will the caps on rent really change the social make up of most areas? A letter in the Guardian from a Camden councillor suggests not. In Camden there are and will continue to be 30,000 low-rent homes for poorer tenants – council houses and housing association houses. Around 800 families are in private rented accommodation. Some will have to move and that won't be particularly nice for them. But others will be moving anyway (10% a year do so) while others may find they suddenly see rent reductions (landlords won't be as stubborn on price as they claim they will be when their tenants start packing).

Others may just move a few miles. It'll cost you £2,000 a month plus to rent a small 2-bedroom flat in Westbourne Grove. Two miles further out it'll cost you half that and you'll get a garden too. Others may get "discretionary benefits". £60m has been set aside for this – which is good and should cut the hardship that might result from the changes. But either way, Camden and the rest of London will be keeping the vast majority of its poor.

What it won't have is what it hasn't got now. Middle-income earners. Is it fair that middle managers and administrators who have reasonable incomes but can't afford to live in central London have to commute in for miles? Do you think the person who manages the crockery department at John Lewis lives in Knightsbridge? Or that any of the back office staff at the average hedge fund live in Mayfair? Or for that matter than any of the Moneyweek staff live in penthouse flats on the Southbank (where our office is)? Of course they don't.

Nah, you bought a penthouse in Edinburgh! :P

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  • 415 Brexit, House prices and Summer 2020

    1. 1. Including the effects Brexit, where do you think average UK house prices will be relative to now in June 2020?

      • down 5% +
      • down 2.5%
      • Even
      • up 2.5%
      • up 5%

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