Oxford housing shortage blamed on cuts to housing benefit

The number of households living in temporary accommodation in Oxford has risen, a council report has said.

Throughout 2010/11, there were people living in 156 temporary homes but since April, there have already been 163.

The report said there had been a "massive downturn" in the availability of the private-rented properties available to people on housing benefit.

Deputy leader of the Labour-run city council, Ed Turner, said it related directly to cuts in housing benefits.

"We are talking about several hundred people," he added.

This year, the government began to take measures to cut £2.4bn from the housing benefit bill and in April, local housing allowance (LHA) rates were changed.

Leslie Dewhurst, the director of charity Oxford Homeless Pathways, which looks after single people made homeless, said: "The rate of housing benefit that is payable to private landlords is being reduced which means that a lot of private landlords are simply deciding not to let their properties to people on housing benefit.

"Public sector spending cuts are beginning to really bite and certainly in Oxford we will see some big changes over the next year or so."

'Restoring fairness'

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said the housing benefit reforms were "not designed to force people out their homes".

He added: "They are about restoring fairness to a system which has spiralled out of control and ensuring that benefit claimants make the same choices about affordability as everyone else.

"We have given existing claimants up to nine months from the anniversary of their claim to adjust to any changes in their benefit.

"People in the most vulnerable situations will remain exempt, and those not exempt can be considered for extra help from the additional £130m being made available to local authorities to help smooth the transition of the housing benefit changes."

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