West Midlands Mayor calls for housing allowance ‘supercharge’

Andy Street said there was “no doubt” the government’s decision to freeze Local Housing Allowance led to a rise in homelessness.

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Conservative Mayor Andy Street has called for a “supercharge” to levels of Local Housing Allowance (LHA), in a bid to stop thousands more tenants from becoming homeless.

The urge to government comes after Street said there was “no doubt” that the decision to freeze the allowance three years ago had led to a rise in the number of rough sleepers.

As outlined in Crisis reports, it was estimated that more than 6,000 households could be prevented from being pushed into homelessness and more than 35,000 children lifted out of poverty in the next three years in the UK if the government restored levels of LHA.

Street has since backed the charity’s Cover the Cost campaign and has met with Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd to discuss the issue.

As part of the campaign, new research estimates an investment boost of £3.3bn in LHA over three years would unleash immediate net benefits of £2.1bn.

The charity has called for funding of £820m in the next year.

“There is no doubt that the government’s freezing of the local housing allowance rate has contributed to an increase in homelessness,” Street said.

“As private rents have gone up in the West Midlands – around 11% in three years – the LHA benefit has remained the same since 2016.

“When you consider that, is it any wonder people fall behind on their payments and end up being evicted – the most common reason behind homelessness in our region?

“Not only does the frozen LHA affect people’s ability to keep up with their rent, but it is also leading to many landlords skimping on the upkeep of properties, leaving tenants in poor-quality housing.”

He added: “Homelessness is a critical and complex issue that requires a collaborative approach to solve.

“In the West Midlands, all our partners are working incredibly hard and we have seen some success, not least with our Housing First initiative, with more than 70 homeless people having been given a home.

“However, it is clear so much more needs to be done – and fast.”

The Mayor also said that increasing the LHA to a level where 30% of rented homes in any area are affordable to everyone, a “significant difference” would be seen in both providing affordable accommodation and easing the burden on the NHS.

“We all have a moral duty to tackle homelessness, and these changes to the LHA would make an immediate and significant difference,” Street added.

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