There has been no government assessment of the case for increasing the scope of housing support, despite the sector stressing the need for investment.
Crossbench peer Lord Hylton put a written Lords question as to the extent of assessment of the case for increasing both the scope and total amount of housing benefit – including any resulting savings on temporary accommodation and other costs.
For the DWP, Tory peer Baroness Stedman-Scott said no assessment has been made of either case with decisions on the uprating of Local Housing Allowance from April 2020 to be “discussed later this year.”
Crisis and The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) are calling on the government to invest in housing benefit – releasing a survey showing overwhelming support from three-quarters (75%) of respondents saying housing benefit should increase if rents go up.
The charities commissioned Public First to conduct a survey of over 4,000 UK adults, which also showed that 76% of people believe housing benefit is a practical way for the Government to stop people experiencing homelessness in the first place.
In 2011, housing benefit was set so those on low incomes could afford the cheapest 30% of private rentals in their area.
Following years of under-investment, including a four-year freeze since 2016, the rates are acknowledged as falling woefully short of the true cost of renting, which continues to rise in many parts of the country.
Research published earlier this year by Crisis showed that housing benefit shortfalls meant that in many areas across the UK, there is little to no affordable private housing.
This is recognised pushing thousands of individuals and families to the brink of homelessness.
In May, the two charities released a report revealing nine out of 10 councils warning of more and more of those 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.
Nearly 90% of local authorities surveyed for that report said there is not enough social housing in their area to meet demand – including for those on the brink of homelessness.
That was evidence enough for 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.
The NHF has called for an increase LHA payments so that they cover at least the bottom 30% of private rent homes in any local area, with related research exposing just how inadequate Local Housing
Allowance now is for the 1.3m families who rely on it to cover the high cost of private rent.
There are now parts of the country where less than 1% of private rented properties are covered by the Local Housing Allowance rate, at a time when record numbers of low income families have no other option for finding a home, due to a severe lack of social housing.