William Eichler 05 February 2020

End housing allowance freeze to help 100,000 people, council chiefs say

End housing allowance freeze to help 100,000 people, council chiefs say image

More than 100,000 people would be protected from financial hardship if Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates were lifted to cover the cost of renting, local authority leaders say.

Hundreds of thousands of eligible private renters in England receive LHA in order to help them pay rent. The amount of LHA they receive is calculated based on local rents with rates frozen since 2016, when they covered the cheapest third of private rents.

The Government has confirmed it will end the LHA freeze from April this year and rates will increase in line with inflation. However, as rents have continued to rise over the past four years, the LHA rate now covers just 13% of market rents on average as a result.

New research for the Local Government Association (LGA) by Policy in Practice reveals the LHA rate now available for nine out of 10 private renters across 279 local areas is lower than their rent. This makes it harder for people to access housing.

The LGA warns that the freeze has hit families and vulnerable people and forced councils to divert funding away from long-term approaches to homelessness prevention in order to tackle immediate financial hardship.

According to Policy in Practice’s research, if LHA rates were restored to pre-2016 levels on average, an average council would need to house 300 fewer people in temporary accommodation.

The average cost of using temporary accommodation for a council would also reduce by between £1.4m and £3m, and the average council would see 650 more households able to cover the cost of their rent with their LHA payments.

‘Over the past four years LHA rates have not kept pace with the rising cost of renting. It has left many people facing a growing gap between their incomes and the cost of rent,’ said Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the LGA’s Resources Board.

‘This has pushed households into financial hardship, in-work poverty and homelessness, and driven demand for councils’ housing, homelessness and local welfare services.

‘Everyone deserves a decent, secure and affordable home and more needs to be done to protect tenants, including the most vulnerable, from falling into the trap of financial instability.

‘By restoring LHA rates to cover at least the lowest third of market rents, the Government can deliver more of the security that tenants need and support households who need help to meet their housing costs.’

Jon Sparkes, Crisis’ chief executive, said: 'As the LGA research shows, the cost of putting people into temporary accommodation is far greater, and results in them living in a state of perpetual instability.

'No one should have to live like this. We are urging the Government to prioritise investment in housing benefit so that it covers at least the cheapest third of rents.'

It’s now or never for modern democracy image

It’s now or never for modern democracy

The electoral landscape is now ‘more crowded than ever’, while council resources have been ground down, says Laura Lock – and she warns that professionals do not have limitless capacity.
SIGN UP
For your free daily news bulletin
Highways jobs

Senior Project Manager

Leicestershire County Council
Up to £50,823 per annum
The role of this post is to oversee the project management, development and implementation of the County Council’s Major Transport Projects.. Leicestershire
Recuriter: Leicestershire County Council

Programme and Change Delivery Manager (Spatial Planning and Urban Design)

London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth
£43,833 - £53,115 Depending on skills and experience
Are you a change delivery manager with expertise in England’s local government spatial planning and urban design sector? Wandsworth, London (Greater)
Recuriter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Early Years Practitioner

The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea Council
£26,544 - £30,618 per annum pro rata
This is a diverse area and we have high aspirations for all our children, starting with... Kensington and Chelsea, London (Greater)
Recuriter: The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea Council

Programme Manager - Association of Directors of Children’s Services

City of York Council
£50,000 to £60,000 pa
This role will help to shape an annual SLI work plan and variously oversee, facilitate, commission or directly deliver and... York, North Yorkshire
Recuriter: City of York Council

School Wellbeing Worker

City of York Council
£27,614 to £30,602 per annum
The role will involve providing schools with consultation and advice, training, direct work in... York, North Yorkshire
Recuriter: City of York Council

Public Property

Latest issue - Public Property News

This issue of Public Property examines how how flexible workspaces can lead the way in regeneration for local authorities, Why local authority intervention is key to successful urban regeneration schemes and if the Government’s challenge of embracing beauty is an opportunity for communities.

The March issue also takes a closer look at Blackburn with Darwen Council's first digital health hub to help people gain control over health and care services.

Register for your free digital issue