The benefit freeze is pushing low income families to the brink, with more than nine in ten homes for private rent (94%) too expensive for those on housing benefit. Two thirds of these families (65%) are in work.
Research by the National Housing Federation shows just how inadequate Local Housing Allowance now is for the 1.3 million families who rely on it to cover the high cost of private rent.
This is contributing to children living in overcrowded and poor quality accommodation, as well as increasing levels of poverty and debt; with families who can’t find anywhere affordable to rent likely to end up homeless. The number of homeless children in temporary accommodation has increased by 83% since 2011 to 126,020.
“Low income families in England are being punished two-fold, no longer able to access social housing because of the dire shortage of it, they now can’t access enough housing benefit to rent privately either.
“The crippling effects of the housing crisis and significant cuts to benefits have forced thousands of parents into impossible situations in order to keep a roof over their children’s heads, many having to choose between crippling debt, overcrowding or homelessness.
“The time to act is now – government must increase LHA payments in line with at least the bottom 30% of rents; as well as investing in building more social housing so we can ensure there are secure and affordable homes for these families in the future.”
The National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations in England – social landlords to over 6 million people – analysed 75,000 rental homes advertised on Zoopla in July 2019. It compared the cost of rent for each property with the rate of Local Housing Allowance that a family requiring that sized property would be entitled to.
Local Housing Allowance was initially designed to cover bottom 50% of market rents in any area. However this was reduced to 30% in 2011. Rates were then divorced from market rents altogether in 2013; and finally frozen in 2016, so they stopped keeping up even with inflation.
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.