William Eichler 08 July 2019

Benefit freeze ‘fuelling’ homelessness

Benefit freeze ‘fuelling’ homelessness image

The freeze on housing benefits is driving up homelessness in London, the capital’s boroughs have warned.

London Councils has calculated that only between 0 and 15% of private sector rents across the capital are covered by local housing allowance (LHA) rates.

The group, which represents local authorities in the capital, found that in some areas, such as Outer South West London, no properties are affordable for single claimants looking for a room in a shared house.

LHA is relied upon by 1.2 million households who receive it as part of their housing benefit or Universal Credit payment. It has been frozen since 2016.

London Councils’ research found that nearly half (45%) of the almost 200,000 low-income London households claiming LHA for private sector properties do not receive enough housing benefit to cover their rent.

Recipients of LHA face an average shortfall of £50.71 per week and many are being pushed into rent arrears.

‘The counterproductive LHA freeze is fuelling London’s skyrocketing rates of homelessness,’ said Cllr Muhammed Butt, London Councils’ executive member for welfare, empowerment and inclusion.

‘Keeping LHA frozen during a period of fast-rising rents has made private renting in the capital increasingly unaffordable.

‘The resulting pressures on household finances are immense and a crucial factor in the increase in homelessness, with the number of homeless households in London 50% higher at the end of 2017/18 compared to 2010/11.’

‘Bringing LHA back up so that claimants could afford at least 30% of local housing in the private rented sector would significantly improve accommodation options for Londoners and would represent a big step forward in tackling homelessness in the capital,’ Cllr Butt added.

Greg Beales, campaign director at Shelter, said: ‘When housing benefit is so low that people are having to find over £50 of week to cover even the lowest rents, they face grim decisions between food, electric bills and keeping a roof over their head.

‘The problem isn’t just confined to London, there is a gap between LHA and the bottom third of rents in 97% of areas across the country.

'The benefits freeze is pricing people out of anywhere to call home, and directly stoking the homelessness crisis.’

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