“No blacks, no dogs, no Irish” was, apparently, a familiar sign hanging by the front doors of 1950′s and 1960′s boarding houses. In the era of welfare reform and chronic housing shortage, a new category of tenant has emerged that many landlords are refusing to have any dealings with: those in receipt of housing benefit.
Hackney Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) in east London had begun to wonder about this. It had noticed, over the past few months, a steady stream of local people coming to see them for help. Some said they faced eviction, others said it was impossible to find somewhere to live that was affordable within the new, draconian, housing benefit limits.
So the CAB decided to investigate. It put together a team of five volunteers on 15 June to carry out a “mystery shopping” exercise to see what the private rental market looked like for people on housing benefit in the east London borough, using two of the main sources of private rented accommodation: the website Rightmove (used by letting agencies) and Gumtree (used by agencies and individual landlords).