MP fights for tenants priced out of city

September 24, 2008 2:35 PM

David Howarth fighting for tenantsEight hundred Cambridge tenants could be forced to move home because the Government has decided they can no longer afford to live in the city.

MP David Howarth is fighting for a fairer deal for the tenants after Labour claimed they should be prepared to move up to an hour and a half away to find cheaper properties.

Those affected are renting from private landlords and many had their rent paid in full by Cambridge City Council until April when the Government changed the rules.

It replaced Housing Benefit with the new Local Housing Allowance and the tenants were told their rents were too expensive.

As part of its plan to reform the welfare state, Labour ordered that housing allowance payments should be based on "average" rents for Cambridge.

But the decision has left tenants out of pocket and, with low incomes, they are unable to make up the shortfall.

Officials in the department of Work and Pensions Secretary, James Purnell, told the city council that people should be prepared to move to find cheaper rents.

Mr Howarth, who has raised the issue in Parliament, said: ""In effect, the Labour Government is telling people on lower incomes that they are not entitled to live in Cambridge. I am appalled.

"One and half hours would mean moving to Lincolnshire. That is ridiculous. Why should people be forced to disrupt their family life, including their children's schooling, in this way? It is cruel."

Dr Helen Elsom, of Newmarket Road, Cambridge had her monthly rent of £600 a month cut to £560 - leaving her to find an extra £40 a month from her incapacity benefit.

She said: "This came completely out of the blue. It means I will have to cut back on everything. The Government certainly wants to cut expenditure and this is the desirable intended consequence."

The method of calculating the new Local Housing Allowance has already been challenged by a Sheffield tenant in a successful landmark House of Lords' appeal hearing.

The tenant had argued that The Rent Service - which calculates average rents across the country for the Government - had been wrong when it decided his rent, based on those in Sheffield as a whole, was too high.

His appeal was allowed after the Lords determined that it was harsh to "require a radical deterioration in a person's residential circumstances".

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