Thursday, 12 September 2013

Bedroom Tax & UN Findings

Raquel Rolnik answers criticisms by Tory Chairman
THE UN special rapporteur for housing denied allegations of bias, as she launched a stinging attack on the UK’s ‘retrogressive’ housing policy this morning.
Raquel Rolnik has come under fire from Conservative chair Grant Shapps, after she recommended suspending and reviewing the bedroom tax following a two-week fact-finding mission in the UK.
Her preliminary report – which also recommends regulating the private sector and significantly increasing the social housing stock – was branded an ‘absolute disgrace’ by the former housing minister.

He accused her of coming with an agenda, without invitation and not meeting government departments.  ‘This is absolutely not true,’ she told reporters in central London after presenting her report.  ‘I have met officials from many departments, and the details of these meetings are all listed within my report.’

She was said to have met officials from the Department for Work and Pensions, and the Communities and Local Government department during her visit, as well as brief personal meetings with secretary of state Eric Pickles and communities minister Don Foster:  ‘This was an official visit – I was invited by the UK government and it was organised by the UK government.’

The rapporteur presented a preliminary report to the media which said she has ‘serious concerns’ about the ‘deterioration’ of the right to housing in the UK.
‘Unfortunately, the system has been weakened by a series of measures over the years, notably by having privileged homeownership over other forms of tenure,’ she said, ‘I am concerned about the conditions of private renters, as the reduction in the social housing stock and the credit downturn has forced a higher percentage of the population – notably young people – to the private sector, with substantial impact on affordability, location and tenure security.’

She recommended regulation of the private rented sector, including clear criteria about affordability, access to information and security of tenure. She did not rule out recommending rent caps.  She also suggested a ‘more balanced approach to public funding for the supply of social housing’, and criticised the government for reducing the subsidy.

Commenting on the bedroom tax, she said she had heard ‘dramatic testimonies’ about its impact across the country – in particular from grandparents who act as carers and from disabled people.
‘I am not talking about numbers, I am talking about human beings,’ she said, ‘Just one human being is enough for this to be a breach of human rights.’

She described the welfare reform programme as a whole as a ‘trap’, and said she would issue further recommendations in her final report – due to be published in March – about policies such as the housing benefit cap.  She also raised concerns over help to buy, which she said was having a negative effect on those in social housing waiting lists by raising house prices and rents, and said the government should seek to boost the economy by delivering more social housing instead.

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