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Will Labour end “travesty” of frozen Housing Allowance?

The ongoing freeze on housing benefit rates is a travesty that needs reversing immediately, the National Residential Landlords Association is warning. 

The issue was raised by the NRLA’s Policy Director Chris Norris at a Labour Party conference fringe event held in partnership with think tank DEMOS.

When questioned about the impact of the freeze, Chris Norris concluded that it was “completely unworkable”. He argued that it represents a “brake on social mobility, a brake on access [to rented housing] and a brake on investment” in new homes to rent. 


Housing benefit rates have been frozen for the third year in a row, meaning benefit support is linked to rents as they were three years ago, not as they are today. 

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies just five per cent of rental properties advertised on Zoopla are now affordable for those in receipt of housing benefit as a result of the freeze.

The NRLA is calling on the Government to unfreeze housing benefit rates as a matter of urgency, to prevent ever growing numbers of benefit claimants from struggling to access the housing they need.

At the conference the Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council - Stephen Cowan, who is leading an independent review of the private rented sector for the Labour Party - spoke of the “vital role” the rented sector had to play. However, he also argued that the challenges the sector faces could only be addressed by boosting the supply of housing across the board.

Echoing the sentiment, Chris Norris warned that tenants were being let down by a failure of government policy to encourage greater investment in private rented homes. 

He argued that the failure had left tenants with no choice over where they live. This, he argued, made them unable to voe with their feet when confronted with the minority of landlords providing sub-standard housing.

Norris states: “We welcome the recognition from all the panellists of the importance of the private rented sector.

“If they win power, Labour will need to tackle fundamental challenges in the rental market. It will need to tackle the chronic lack of private rented homes which is making it harder and harder for renters to find anywhere to live.  

“The unjust housing benefit freeze will need to be scrapped. And a future Labour Government will need to do more to root out those landlords providing unsafe housing and bringing the sector into disrepute.

“None of this will be easy, but we stand ready to work constructively with the party to secure a rental market that works for tenants and responsible landlords.”

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    Freezing the LHA is only part of the story. Discretionary Housing Payments are made to bridge the gap. However, to get a DHP means a tenant has to apply for it, which essentially turns them into beggars. The LHA is obviously woefully inadequate. The BMRAs are geographically too big. In this area the choice is spend £200+ a month extra on rent from money that is meant for other purposes or spend around £150 a month on travel to work costs and an extra £70+ on extra rent.

    I've just accepted a new tenant on UC with a £316 a month LHA shortfall. I'm not entirely sure why I agreed to it as I have got concerns about affordability. It was the cheapest available property in the town and the Council were confident DHPs would be available. Which kind of defeats the object of freezing LHA


    Good luck Jo, you may have taken on a new problem, not too sure I would have been so generous given how many gold standard tenants are out there desperate for a property.


    Simon - I certainly had a lot of interest in the flat. Some of them may even have been gold standard. Whereas I like my HMO tenants to be gold standard I'm a bit less convinced of their merits in my self contained units. They have a tendancy to not stay very long, either because they split up or buy a house. Either way it results in all the tenant changeover rigmarole and probably a void on a too frequent basis.

    This time round several of the applicants were very cagey about household composition (which is crucial for a landlord to know due to bedroom entitlement and overcrowding legislation). Several mentioned needing a tenancy agreement so their husbands and unspecified number of children could join them from whichever country. Some would have had major issues with the parking situation as it simply doesn't work for anyone working unconventional hours or WFH. There were two applicants I probably should have put more thought into but that's said with the benefit of further communication with both after I had agreed to tenant I now have. Initially one of them wanted a video viewing (tricky when the property is occupied) and the other asked if the rent was negotiable. The guy I have came via the local Council Housing Options scheme so will get every bit of support and guidance available. The other tenant I have from that scheme has worked out very well in the 3 years I've had him.

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    I was not aware of additional discretionary housing payments. Even so, I am not sure I would take a benefit claiming tenant when I have so many (equally desperate) well financed families applying for any rare vacancies we get.

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    Frozen housing allowance is a very good reason for saying NO DSS, we just know that we won't be getting the rent paid

  • David Lester

    Being a Landlord is a business, not a charity, the government holding back an increase is to make people get back to work, of missing parents to pay their share!

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    I think all benefits should be stopped and replaced with universal basic income for every UK citizen. That makes it fair for everyone and if you want to live in a decent place you will just have to work.


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