Recently announced cuts to housing benefits could have a significant impact on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) community, especially its young people. We might all be in this together but are we all likely to suffer the same?
The announced changes to housing benefits could have a significantly negative impact on some of the UK’s most disadvantaged communities. The cuts affect three areas which could impact on LGBT people.
• The capping of housing benefit
• The increased age of single persons’ housing allowance to 35
• The continued reduction of social housing and the increase in social housing rents to 80% of market value.
Capping of housing benefit
The cap on housing benefit coupled with a continuing reduction in housing stock could mean that people on benefits and low income are going to be disproportionately affected, pushing them into further disadvantage and reducing the housing options available to them.
The impact this will have has been debated but in London some local authorities have already seen an increase in pressure for resources with a group of 10 Liberal Democrat councillors signing an open letter complaining the actions of their own collation government are “very likely to lead to an increase in evictions, rent arrears, homelessness and demand for temporary accommodation. This will place even greater pressure on councils…”
Children’s Minister Sarah Teather has argued that the reduction in housing benefit will drive down rents. However, a recent study has found 60% of landlords would not consider reducing their rents even by a small amount with 90% of landlords saying they would look to evict the tenant if they fall into arrears.
Bob Green, Chief Executive of LGBT housing association Stonewall Housing, comments that there is a risk that LGBT people fleeing homophobic or transphobic violence “will remain in dangerous situations and some may have to move further away from their support networks. In essence, LGBT people may not be able to afford safety!”
Increased age of single persons housing allowance to 35
Currently if you are under 25 years of age you are only allowed to claim for a single room which already places many LGBT young people at a disadvantage. This means if you have a one bedroom flat, the housing benefit you get will be reduced, meaning many young people under 25 cannot afford to live alone. This already has a negative effect on LGBT people with many of them forced to live in accommodation where they do not feel safe to live as out LGBT people. The government now intends to increase the age to 35 meaning that some people may have to move homes. This may mean they are forced to go back into the closet and trans people may have to revert to their birth gender, if their economic circumstances change such as they lose their job.
The increase in age means that young people are unlikely to be able to live alone unless they achieve a good economic status which seems more and more unlikely in this challenging time of high youth unemployment. This could have a negative effect on the emotional well being of LGBT young people who already suffer higher rates of suicide, discrimination and poor mental health.
The continued reduction of social housing and the increase in social housing rents of up to 80% of market value.
Young people are unlikely to be able to live independently due to the increase of social housing rents to 80% of the market value compounded by the increase in single persons housing allowance age. Youth Homelessness charity Centrepoint’s policy officer Jenny Monsort comments that “this will particularly hit young people in supported accommodation… they will not be able to afford the rent and become homeless again.”
The reduction of social housing stock will put further pressure on the private rented stock available and with the reduction of housing benefit this stock is also likely to become limited, with 26% of landlords planning to reduce the amount of tenants they accept who are on housing benefit.
The reduction in housing benefit payments is likely to significantly reduce the housing options of some LGBT people meaning they could be forced out of their communities into areas with higher rates of hate crime. This could create further social isolation and force some people to back into the closet. Some people may not feel able to have their partner stay over for fear of attack.
What’s likely to happen?
The impact of these cuts is debatable. The government are arguing that the market will adjust to them with a net decrease in rents. However, it is likely that people will be forced to move to areas which are more affordable, which could defragment communities and force LGBT people into areas where they feel unsafe.
The increase in the single persons housing allowance is likely to put further pressure on LGBT young people, reducing their freedom to explore their identity and live their lives openly as LGBT people. It may even force some people back into the closet and/or into living in an environment where they do not feel free to fully express their identities.
We might all be in this together but it would appear it is the already disadvantaged who will take the brunt of the blow.
We currently have space for a group of 5-10 young people to make a 10 minute documentary on homophobia and what you would like to see change for the gay community over the next 5 years.
The film and its content will be written by the young people who take part. It is a chance work with a well respected production company.
The group will lead all aspects of the project – planning the subject matter, finding contributors, costumes etc, filming, editing and publicising the final project.
The project will run from November – January and the group will meet at times that are convenient for them. You will take part in master classes in camera skills, editing, PR and marketing and event planning. There will also be the opportunity to gain a bronze or Silver Arts Award. At the end of the project there will be a screening of the film at the BFI (organised by the group themselves alongside Paris, a group based in Newham). The screening will be open to all LGBTQ youth groups/organisations across London. Once the project is finished we also hope to have the film shown at the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival (also held at the BFI).
If you or anyone else has any questions please feel free to email email@example.com