Nine out of 10 councils warn more and more people in their area on the lowest incomes will become homeless because the freeze on Local Housing Allowance (LHA) and other benefits means they can’t afford to pay their rents, according to a new report published today (15th May).
Nearly 90% of local authorities surveyed for the report said there is not enough social housing in their area to meet demand – including for those on the brink of homelessness.
Now, Crisis and Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) are calling for the government to urgently restore LHA rates in Universal Credit to ensure they truly cover the cost of rent – then look to long-term provision of social housing.
“This can be fixed,” said Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis.
“In the long term, the government must build the social housing our country needs, but in the short term, it must urgently invest in Local Housing Allowance so that people who rely on it can actually afford their rents and have the stability of a place to call home.”
The starkness of the situation is outlined in the latest Homelessness Monitor: England commissioned by Crisis and the JRF and led by Heriot-Watt University.
Published every year since 2011, the report includes a national survey of councils, statistical analysis, and in-depth interviews with council and national government representatives and charities working with homeless people.
Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick, Heriot-Watt University, the report’s lead author, said the report did offer “encouraging evidence” that the Homelessness Reduction Act is enabling councils to help more people facing a housing crisis.
“However, the combination of cumulative welfare reforms and increasing housing market pressures are making it even harder for low income households to find a place to live,” she said.
“The research shows that councils are seeing more demand for their services, yet are faced with an ever diminishing social housing supply and very few options in the private rented sector.”
With cuts to LHA over the past eight years – and a freeze to the benefit from 2016 – Councils are finding themselves under increasing pressure, with seven out of 10 reporting a rise in demand for their homelessness services in the last year alone.
More than three quarters of councils in the North and the Midlands reported a rise in the need for their services, as well as 80% across London.
JRF chief executive Campbell Robb said urgent investment in Local Housing Allowances had to be backed by long-term investment in low-cost rented homes.
“A home should be the anchor that keeps you from being swept into homelessness, poverty and destitution in hard times,” he said.
“[But] for too many people, the prospect of such a stable home is a distant dream due to high rents, unstable tenancies and an income that doesn’t allow you to build a better life.
“We know there is action we can take.”