CIH warns housing benefit freeze risks fuelling homelessness

The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) has called for an end to frozen housing benefits, which it claims is putting thousands at risk of poverty and homelessness.

Research published today by the CIH warns renters are facing gaps ranging from £25 a month on a single room in a shared home outside London to more than £260 a month on one to four-bedroom homes in some areas of London, because housing benefit rates are too low.

It also shows that more than 90 per cent of Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates across Great Britain now fail to cover the cheapest rents, as they were originally designed to do.

LHA rates were frozen for four years in 2016 and CIH is warning that they have fallen so far behind even the cheapest rents that private renting has become unaffordable for most low-income tenants.

LHA rates are meant to cover the cheapest 30% of homes in any given area, but they remain frozen until April 2020.

‘Our research makes it clear just how far housing benefit for private renters has failed to keep pace with even the cheapest private rents. We fear this policy is putting thousands of private renters on low incomes at risk of poverty and homelessness,’ said CIH chief executive, Terrie Alafat.

‘We are calling on the government to conduct an immediate review and to look at ending the freeze on Local Housing Allowance.’

Matt Downie, director of policy and external affairs at Crisis, added: ‘This report highlights just how much housing benefits for private renters are falling short of the levels needed, leaving many homeless people stuck in a desperate situation and putting yet more people at risk of homelessness.

‘There are 236,000 people across Britain experiencing the worst forms of homelessness – this includes those sleeping on the streets, living in unsuitable hostels, and sofa-surfing. In many of these cases, people simply can’t find a home because there isn’t enough social housing and housing benefits are too low to cover private rents.

‘Homelessness is not inevitable – there is clear evidence that it can be ended with the right policies in place. The government must urgently reform housing benefits for private renters, so they not only match the true cost of renting but also keep pace with future rent changes.’

Jamie Hailstone
Senior reporter - NewStart


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