More affordable housing needed as private renters rise

The number of private landlords receiving housing benefit has more than doubled in parts of South Yorkshire in five years.

Figures released by union GMB show that in Rotherham there were 3,430 housing benefit claimants in the private rented sector in November 2008 and 6,275 in November 2013, an increase of 83 per cent.

In Barnsley, there were 4,161 claimants in 2008 and 6,559 five years later, a 58 per cent rise.

The GMB research also shows some companies in Rotherham and Barnsley are receiving more than £300,000 a year in housing benefit direct from councils for tenants renting their properties.

Housing benefit can be claimed by people in or out of work on a low income for part or all of their rent.

Wentworth & Dearne MP and former housing minister John Healey called on the Government to build more social housing for affordable rent.

He said: “More than 9 million people rent their home from a private landlord. The number of private renters in Rotherham has doubled in 10 years.

“Housing benefit serves an important purpose in keeping a roof over the heads of families on low incomes. But many private rented homes are in poor condition.

“The money going to landlords could be used to build 1,000 new council or housing association homes every year in Rotherham and Barnsley.

“Because private rents are higher, if people were renting in social homes instead it could save more than £5m in Rotherham and Barnsley each year – enough to build another 100 affordable homes.”

As housing minister in 2009-10 Mr Healey got councils building at scale for the first time in a generation.

On average, annual rent in Yorkshire and the Humber has increased by nearly £400 since 2010.