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Councils should compete in PRS and use housing benefit to improve homes - think tank

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Councils should compete in PRS and use housing benefit to improve homes - think tank

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Bill Payments

Let councils use housing benefit money to improve private rented sector homes - think tank Let councils use housing benefit money to improve private rented sector homes - think tank

Councils should become more proactive in the private rented sector and use housing benefit money to improve standards, according to a new report.

With £9.3 billion in housing benefit annually being given to private landlords, the think tank IPPR North says local authorities should compete with letting agents and use profits to improve the condition of thousands of properties.

The report shows that nearly one million vulnerable households, many of whom are in receipt of housing benefit, are now living in inadequate accommodation. In total, over three million vulnerable households are now living in the private rented sector.

In addition, the report points out that the number of people living in privately rented accommodation and receiving housing benefit has risen by 900,000 in the last 10 years, as the role of local authorities as landlords has halved.

IPPR has a long-term plan to shift housing benefit spend into housebuilding but the new report argues that all local authorities must make better use of their existing powers to regulate the private rented sector.

It recommends that local authorities establish 'Community Housing Agencies' which would match tenants with landlords. These would compete with private letting agents and use profits to improve housing quality by increasing inspections and operating a system of landlord accreditation.

Ed Cox, IPPR North Director, said: “The ever-rising cost of rent subsidy for those on housing benefit and the growth of an under-regulated private rented sector, means more taxpayers’ money than ever before is being paid to private landlords for substandard housing.

“Our research shows that people on the lowest incomes are not only the most likely to live in sub-standard housing but they are also the least likely to have these problems addressed by their landlord. They are also less likely to take action against their landlord for fear of the consequences.

“Local authorities are best placed to identify and determine the properties that most need attention. With powers largely in their possession, local authorities should establish not-for-profit agencies to act as a guardian and gatekeeper for tenants living in the private rented sector.”

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