David Cameron slated over 'misleading' rental claims in House of Commons

David Cameron has been accused of misleading Parliament after stating in Prime Minister’s questions that private rents are coming down, thanks to housing benefit reforms.

Responding to a question from Dame Joan Ruddock MP (Labour, Lewisham Deptford), Cameron said: “As I understand it, all parties are committed to reform housing benefit. That was Labour’s commitment before the election.

“The housing benefit bill is completely out of control. Labour’s own welfare spokesman said last week that, at £20 billion, it was unacceptable and had to change. What we have seen so far, as housing benefit has been reformed and reduced, is that rent levels have come down, so we have stopped ripping off the taxpayer.”
His comments were later attacked by shadow housing minister Jack Dromey, who said: “What planet does David Cameron live on?

“There is no evidence that rents are falling. On the contrary, every survey including that conducted by Shelter demonstrates that private rents continue to soar.

“We will be asking No 10 to correct the statement made by the Prime Minister to the House of Commons which is clearly wrong.”

Those in the social housing sector also challenged Cameron’s claims.

Abigail Davies, assistant director of policy and practice at the Chartered Institute of Housing, tweeted: “I’m wondering what data David Cameron is using to support his claim that rents have fallen due to housing benefit reform.”

Housing consultant Joe Halewood said: “The facts prove Cameron has misled Parliament with this statement.”

Meanwhile, LSL – whose rent index showing falls in November appears to be what Cameron relied on to make his statement – has also queried what the Prime Minister said.

David Newnes, director of LSL Property Services, owners of Your Move and Reeds Rains said: “Although rents fell on a monthly basis in November, it’s premature to suggest this is a consequence of policy changes.

“The main reason is likely to be the usual seasonal slowdown. Since 2008, November rents have risen only once – by just 0.1% – and have fallen every December.

“In all of the last four years, rents started rising again by the spring.

“In the run-up to New Year, landlords tend to be less aggressive with pricing as greater pressure on tenant finances and time away from work or study means a higher risk of empty properties in this period.

“We will only be able to measure the impact of the cuts for social tenants once they have had more time to feed through into the whole market.”