Why didn’t Shelter find somewhere for Stephen?Make Text Bigger
Shelter’s campaign with Rosie featured in a BBC News article back in February. I quoted this at length, and linked to it, last week: Click Here
Today I looked at the comments that had been put under the BBC’s article.
The only comment from a landlord was by Frank from Stratford-Upon-Avon who said:
“Housing Benefit is just that. For Housing. Landlords would accept benefit tenants if rent was paid directly to Landlords with a guarantee that it would start at the beginning of a tenancy and be guaranteed to continue. The reality is that once a tenant is in a property, the assessments can take many weeks. The slightest error by a tenant means the application has to start again, meaning 6-8 weeks delay. The Council isn’t concerned as the applicant isn’t homeless. This is the reality, while of course a Landlord still has to pay his mortgage. I just get tired of the ill informed comments by Shelter. How many properties to HB tenants do they rent out? How many properties do they rent to anyone? Millions in income. So why don’t they put their income to good use, and help solve the problem. Yes, there are bad Landlords, but the vast majority are good, and wish for good, long term tenants. Conversely, there are good HB tenants, but equally others who are not.”
Another of the comments may have prompted David Orr’s ludicrous remark trying to blacken the name of the PRS Click Here
It was by Sheila from the Isle of Wight: The stipulation “no HB, Children or Pets” was appended to most of the rental properties on offer. It reminded me of London in the 50s and 60s.” She mentioned two categories, but not dogs.
However, this one jumped out at me, by Stephen from Birmingham, who said:“I am a wheelchair user and any property I phone up and tell them this and I’m on housing benefits it’s a straight no not even considered. I arranged a viewing at a house in Risinghurst, Oxford and got as far as signing documents. Landlord was happy to be housing a mother and two children (as well as the family dog), but as soon as I mentioned housing benefits paying a small fraction of the cost, the entire agreement shut down and the agent became frustrated that I hadn’t told her prior to viewing.”
He has a lot in common with Stephen Tyler from Birmingham who appeared on the Victoria Derbyshire programme last month:: Click Here
If they are one and the same, two questions arise. If he was willing to move 77 miles or so to Risinghurst, why did he make a big thing of Birmingham City Council offering a property that was 90 miles away?
Stephen Tyler did not say on Victoria Derbyshire’s programme that he told agents about the wheelchair, just that he was on “DSS”, but if in fact he also told them about the wheelchair, that is likely to be as much of an obstacle to finding a property as being on HB, if not more so.
Towards the end of the discussion, Victoria said to Greg Beales, Director of Communication for Shelter “What advice would you give to Stephen, who, astonishingly, is having to sleep in his car because no-one will take him?”. Beales said “Well, we can’t go on like this, so we are hoping we can help Stephen in his particular situation”. He did not say how, and quickly changed the subject. It seemed very much like an impromptu remark, as if he hadn’t expected to give Stephen advice. Stephen was there to help Shelter, after all. It’s not Beales’s job to advise the indigent – that’s what all the underlings are for. So, although he is a qualified spin-doctor, all he could come up with at short notice was vague hope.
Why hasn’t Shelter helped Stephen already? Is it because everyone has to take part in Shelter’s propaganda war against the PRS to qualify for the charity’s help now?
Don’t hold your breath Stephen, or rely on pious hope. Rosie Keogh is still in her damp house after Shelter helped her. Click Here
I have some more advice, Stephen, if I may be so bold. If your HB is just a small fraction of the rent, why not give it up and look for somewhere fractionally cheaper than a property near Oxford, which is a property hot-spot. You might then find that all doors are open to you in the Birmingham area, and you could get your family back together again near your partner’s family. You could even make up the HB element perhaps by getting a little job in your second favourite career.
If anyone is wondering why Birmingham City Council doesn’t house Stephen, Shelter has a web page about a local authority’s responsibility for housing the homeless, called “Longer term housing when homeless”: Click Here
It includes the following snippets:
“You won’t qualify for the main housing duty if you refuse a final housing offer while you’re getting help under your personal housing plan.”
“It’s almost always better to accept an offer of housing. You can ask for a review if you think it’s unsuitable.”
“Location of the accommodation: The council must consider your personal circumstances including travel time to work, disruption to children’s education, caring responsibilities and support networks in the area.”
“Accept the housing offer and ask for a review”
“Housing and legal advisers usually advise that it is not a good idea to turn down an offer of housing.
The council can end your temporary accommodation if you refuse a suitable:
- offer of a tenancy with a private landlord
- final offer of a council or housing association home
- offer of alternative temporary accommodation
The council does not have to provide you with any further accommodation if your review request is unsuccessful.
You can make a new homeless application but the council will probably decide that you’re intentionally homeless.”
Plenty of advice there. Although disabled, Stephen is not even being given temporary accommodation. Could it be that Stephen refused a final offer from BCC, thus making himself intentionally homeless, but Shelter sees this as an opportunity to blame the PRS for his situation?
If that is what happened there would be no point in suing the BCC, so Shelter’s forthcoming series of test cases will be aimed exclusively at agents and landlords. If they do succeed in setting precedents it will be a victory without gain. It will not produce a single extra property for an HB claimant that was not there before, because of the well-known problems with HB (which will be made worse when UC indeed becomes universal). In addition Section 24, which was supported by Shelter, has prompted landlords to decant HB claimants because the latter can’t afford the increase in rent that is required for landlords to be able to pay the levy on mortgage interest to HMRC, a rent increase which leaves the landlords themselves no better off. Click Here
If you must lobby, Shelter, there is plenty for you to get your teeth into there. However, with this discrimination malarkey you are making the situation worse by antagonising landlords, the very people who are needed to house the poorest members of society. By distorting the results of your own survey you are destroying your credibility. Is this what people donated their hard-earned money for?
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