Private landlords pocketed in the region of £9.3bn in housing benefit last year – double the amount they received a decade ago, new figures show.
According to the research undertaken by the National Housing Federation (NHF), some £4.6bn in housing benefit was paid to private landlords in 2006, a figure which had more than doubled by 2015, reflecting a sharp rise in the number of private tenants claiming housing benefit.
The NHF’s findings raise fresh concerns about government policy of shifting housing benefit recipients into the private sector, with the report suggesting that taxpayers would have saved up to £15.6bn over the past seven years had housing benefit claimants been living in social housing instead of renting from private landlords.
NHF chief executive David Orr said it is “madness” that more than £9bn of taxpayers’ money is “lining the pockets of private landlords rather than investing in affordable homes”.
“The lack of affordable housing available means that a wider group of people need housing benefit,” he added.
Responding to the findings from the NHF, Richard Lambert, chief executive officer at the National Landlords Association (NLA), defended landlords who let homes to tenants claiming housing benefit.
He said: “Housing benefit is not a subsidy to landlords; it’s a support for tenants to ensure they can pay for their housing. However, the proportion of landlords who let to tenants in receipt of housing benefit has halved over the last five years as benefit levels have not kept up with rents.
“The NHF is clearly still reeling from the news that its members have been ordered by government to reduce spending over the next four years, so it comes as no surprise that they are looking to shift the emphasis and point the finger elsewhere.”
Lambert pointed out that the private rented sector has grown as the market responds to the increasing demand for homes, particularly from a growing proportion of tenants whom the social sector and housing associations simply are not able to support in the current circumstances.
He added: “The private rented sector plays a significant role in providing much-needed homes for tenants so there seems no real benefit in the NHF taking a cheap shot at landlords. What we should all be talking about is the failure of successive governments to adequately allocate its housing budget and to incentivise the building of new homes. In the long term, that would be the best use of taxpayers’ money.”