London Councils has welcomed new research from Crisis and The Joseph Rowntree Foundation highlighting public support for increased government investment in housing benefit.
The public opinion research – released to coincide with World Homeless Day – shows 75% of respondents across the UK agree housing benefit should increase if rents go up.
London Councils has previously warned that the government’s policy of freezing Local Housing Allowance (LHA) levels while rents increased was significantly reducing the number of homes affordable to the 200,000 low-income London households receiving the housing benefit. The umbrella group’s analysis showed only between 0 and 15% of private sector rents across the capital were affordable on LHA rates and almost half of London claimants did not receive enough housing benefit to cover their rent.
Cllr Muhammed Butt, London Councils’ Executive member for welfare, empowerment and inclusion, said:
“The LHA freeze is a counterproductive policy that is driving up homelessness rates in the capital.
“This opinion poll research shows significant public support for boosting housing benefit. The public understand the importance of tackling homelessness – and that increased investment in housing benefit will pay dividends through reducing homelessness and its associated costs.
“As we mark World Homeless Day, the government must listen and take action on this crucial issue.”
People who are eligible for LHA receive it as part of their housing benefit or Universal Credit payment to cover their housing costs if they have a private landlord.
With a chronic shortage of social housing in the capital, many low-income Londoners depend on finding accommodation in London’s private rented sector. However, the government has introduced a series of changes to LHA since 2011, including a four-year freeze on LHA rates from April 2016, which has severely restricted the pool of properties affordable to London households who use the benefit to pay their rent.
London Councils is calling on the government to restore LHA levels so that claimants can afford at least the lowest 30% of local market rents. Boroughs believe this would help prevent homelessness for thousands of Londoners, while reducing the wider costs to the public sector that homelessness creates.