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Shelter wants Local Housing Allowance rise now, not in April

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.

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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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    The sooner the better. The gap between LHA and current rents is being funded partly from Discretionary Housing Payments and partly from money that is supposed to be for other purposes such as food, heating or travel to work costs.

    If NI can be changed from January there should be no logistical reason to delay increasing LHA.

    Until we know how much the new LHA figures are going to be very few of us will increase rents for UC claimants as we will be stuck with whatever figure we pick for 12 months. However, if the government take an inordinate amount of time announcing the new figures we are likely to go large out of frustration.

    Tenants have to be given at least a month's notice of a rent increase so even if the new rates were announced tomorrow very few would kick in before January. However, knowing at least some of the shortfall people are already paying would be funded from January would be a huge relief for a great many households and reduce the support Local Authorities are currently funding.

    Rents for existing tenants can only be increased at the end of a fixed term or after 12 months has elapsed from the last increase, so it could be nearly a year before all claimant's (or their landlords) benefitted from the increase.

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    Want Want Want. Now Now Now . Is that the only words they can utter. Never satisfy some.

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    LHA has been frozen for 4 years at a level that was nearly 2 years out of date when it was introduced.
    Some of us have been incredibly patient and kept the rents of existing UC tenants artificially low for a very long time.
    Tenants newly entering the UC system are finding it incredibly difficult to obtain housing. A great many of these people are essential workers doing vital jobs such as nursing, care work, cleaning, catering, etc. Do we really want these people to be sofa surfing or living in their cars for a minute longer than necessary?

     
  • Steven Williams

    I’ll consider taking shelter seriously when they too, invest and to let out their own portfolio of social housing.

    Until then they’re nothing but a broken record.

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    You mean actually SHELTER people? 😱 Now that’s a novel idea but no chance of Shelter putting their money where their mouth is. 🤣

     
  • jeremy clarke

    Here's an idea polly bleat, why not use some of the millions that shelter receives by duping the public into making donations or the millions donated by government from our taxes to help tenants. Use the money to subsidise rents rather than just letting others do it.

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    Don't forget Nationwide's funding.

     
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    Late News:
    A photograph today in the Mail Online shows an M & S sandwich with "5% donated to Shelter" across the outside wrapper.

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    I regularly ask people I meet thru my Landlord role if they have heard of SHELTER- and if yes what they think they do. Every time they say provide housing - I ask how many houses - have a guess - they guess normally in thousands and they are shocked when Imake a big fat zero sign. Thinking of going into B&Q and standing in front of the sign advertising B&Q supports SHELTER and publicly in front of all their customers asking the same thing. Wrote to B&Q ceo - guess what - no answer!

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