OK for 2020 – but what about four years of freeze?
The government’s confirmation that it will increase local housing allowance rates by 1.7% (CPI) for 2020 is good news for thousands of people on universal credit or housing benefit who are struggling to pay their rent and often having to choose between paying for their home and buying food for their families. But sadly the government has failed to take the logical step to address the shortfall caused by the freeze in LHA since 2016 and successive below inflation up-ratings in the two years before that.
What this means is that people whose benefits have fallen behind as their rent has increased still face not having enough.
And in parts of the country where rents have and continue to outstrip inflation, this increase will mean people with a home will face increased hardship, while people without a home will find it increasingly harder to find somewhere to live.
What that this means is that councils are having to place more people in temporary accommodation for longer periods. Councils already spend more than £1 billion every year on temporary accommodation, which often costs more than those people would pay in rent for their own homes. That’s not an efficient use of taxpayer’s money, much less an acceptable way for families – including more than 120,000 children – to live.
What CIH, along with a range of homelessness and housing organisations including Shelter and Crisis, want is for the government to restore HA rates to what they would have been without the freeze. And equally importantly we want LHA rates to be reset to properly reflect the real cost of renting in each area of the country. Only that way can we avoid people falling ever further behind the housing market and being forced into homelessness.