Housing benefit freeze: 9 in 10 homes unaffordable for families

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.

7 October 2019

Research by the National Housing Federation shows just how inadequate Local Housing Allowance now is for the 1.3million 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.

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.

The most unaffordable places include:

Area

Total properties advertised for private rent 

Not affordable

Affordable

% affordable

Huntingdon

227

226

1

0.44%

Thanet

217

216

1

0.46%

Stevenage & North Herts

159

158

1

0.63%

Ipswich

390

387

3

0.77%

Milton Keynes

508

504

4

0.79%

Peterborough

627

621

6

0.96%

Dover-Shepway

176

174

2

1.14%

Central London

3,747

3,703

44

1.17%

Outer East London

865

854

11

1.27%

Bury St Edmunds

227

230

3

1.30%

 

 

The National Housing Federation is urgently calling on the government to:

  • End the freeze and increase LHA payments so that they cover at least the bottom 30% of private rent homes in any local area.
  • Commit to investing £12.8bn annually in building new social housing, so that fewer families have to depend on unaffordable and insecure privately rented accommodation.

Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation said:

“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.

Case study

Emma Langdon is 30 and lives with her two young sons in a private rented property in Plymouth. After splitting up with her partner, Emma had to move out of their shared home, and struggled to find anywhere affordable to live. After looking for several months, she could not find a single property covered by the rate of Local Housing Allowance she is entitled to.

To avoid being made homeless, Emma had to move eight miles away from her children’s school. She still has to find an extra £60 each month to pay for the rent. She said: “It’s a nightmare. As well as trying to afford the rent, I’m now spending £50 a week on fuel to get the children to school and back.”

After a year of looking, Emma is still unable to find anywhere more suitable or affordable for her family to live. She said: “It’s practically impossible to find anywhere affordable that accepts people on housing benefit. If we lived nearer the children school it would cost an extra £100 each month in rent, but at least I would save money on petrol and they would be near their friends.”

“There are so many families like us in this situation. I’m lucky to have my father as a guarantor or we wouldn’t have been able to find anywhere to live.”

ENDS

For further information please contact:

Stella Turi, PR Officer at the National Housing Federation

Stella.Turi@housing.org.uk, 020 7067 1100 (out of hours 07786 916 877)

Notes for Editors:

The National Housing Federation is the voice of affordable housing in England. We believe that everyone should have the home they need at a price they can afford. That’s why we represent the work of housing associations and campaign for better housing.

Our members provide over two and a half million homes for six million people. And each year they invest in a diverse range of neighbourhood projects that help create strong, vibrant communities.

For more information visit: www.housing.org.uk