Campaigning charity Shelter has welcomed the decision by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to unfreeze Local Housing Allowance - but it wants it to happen now, not next spring.
Hunt’s Autumn Statement pledged to increase LHA to the 30th percentile of local market rents, as requested by numerous landlord and lettings agency groups.
Hunt says this will help some 1.6m households currently renting in both the private and social housing sectors. It's the equivalent of £800 per year per household receiving LHA, he says.
Shelter chief executive Polly Neate says that’s good news - but bad timing.
She says: “The Autumn Statement will provide a huge sigh of relief for the 1.7 million private renters in England relying on housing benefit to help pay their rent.
“Homelessness is at a record high and unfreezing housing benefit to cover the bottom third of local rents is an essential lifeline to keep people in their homes.
“However, pushing this to April 2024 will leave many families facing an uncertain winter with the threat of homelessness and spending their Christmas in grotty one-room temporary accommodation looming large.
“We are pleased that the Chancellor has listened and taken a crucial step to stop rising homelessness, but we urge the government to bring this decision forward and unfreeze housing benefit immediately.”
Neate's charity claims that one in three private renting households in England rely on housing benefit to help pay their rent, and that some 900,000 of private renters in receipt of housing benefit in England have a shortfall between their rent and housing benefit
She claims the number of households in temporary accommodation in England is at the highest ever level - 104,000 households. This is almost twice as many as a decade ago.
Yesterday Ben Twomey - chief executive of Generation Rent - admitted the LHA change will help private tenants who rely on benefits but he said: “Not all renters will get the support we need from this announcement - families caught by the benefit cap won’t get an extra penny - and tenants who need to find a new place to live will still struggle to afford current market rents, which have risen much faster than even the new LHA rates.
“That means that if your landlord evicts you, you could still face having to go to the local council for homelessness support. We need more action from the government to reduce the number of evictions, build more homes in places people want to live, and to make sure that Local Housing Allowance keeps up with rents, rather than being frozen yet again.”
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