Howarth to lead delegation to government over housing crisis

July 1, 2009 4:17 PM

David HowarthA government minister has agreed to meet Cambridge MP David Howarth and a delegation from the city to discuss changes to housing benefit which has left some tenants priced out of the city.

They will meet Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Helen Goodman, after the government was blamed for the crisis facing tenants.

Mr Howarth asked for the meeting with Ms Goodman during Parliamentary Questions in the House of Commons.

His request came after many Cambridge tenants, living in private rented homes, found themselves unable to afford their rents when the government replaced Housing Benefit with the new Local Housing Allowance in April last year.

Average rents for Cambridge were calculated alongside those in cheaper areas such as Ely and Littleport and tenants found their benefits reduced.

A review, carried out recently by the Rent Valuation Office, which calculated average rents for the government, said it was powerless to make changes because it would mean a change in the law.

Mr Howarth said in the Commons: "Hundreds of Cambridge residents will continue to be in a position whereby their housing benefit is forcing them to move out of the city - a situation that the valuation office says results from the state of legislation, not any discretion on the part of the organisation."

Ms Goodman said that the government would shortly be publishing a Green Paper on housing benefit and when that happens the government "will look at how to create a system that combines efficiency with maintaining work incentives and is fair to people across the country."

After Parliamentary Questions, Mr Howarth said: "I am hoping that this meeting with Ms Goodman will lead to a positive move by the government to help these people who have found themselves in an intolerable situation through no fault of their own

"This crisis has threatened to disrupt lives and the longer it is allowed to continue, the more debt people are racking up.

"I hope this meeting will bring us a step closer to bringing to an end this damaging saga and secure some compensation for those affected."

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