Housing benefit freeze risks pushing renters into homelessness, ministers warned
The freeze on housing benefit for private renters is increasing the risk of "poverty and homelessness", ministers have been warned.
A fresh study by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) found that the ongoing freeze on Local Housing Allowance - the housing benefit for people renting in the private sector - has left payments lagging behind even the cheapest rents.
The organisation warned that more than 90% of LHA rates across Great Britain now fail to cover the cheapest rents, with some renters on low incomes facing shortfalls of more than £260 a month for homes in London.
The CIH said the freeze is "making it increasingly likely that renters will be forced to choose between paying for basic necessities like food and heating or their rent".
They urged ministers to review the policy - first brought in in 2013 and renewed for four years in 2016 - and halt the wider freeze on housing benefit.
CIH chief executive Terrie Alafat said: "We fear this policy is putting thousands of private renters on low incomes at risk of poverty and homelessness."
Meanwhile, Matt Downie of homelessness charity Crisis said the report "highlights just how much housing benefits for private renters are falling short of the levels needed".
He added: "Homelessness is not inevitable – there is clear evidence that it can be ended with the right policies in place.
"The Government must urgently reform housing benefits for private renters, so they not only match the true cost of renting but also keep pace with future rent changes.”
A government spokesperson responded by pointing to the Conservatives' wider record on affordable housing.
They said: "We spend £24bn a year on housing benefit each year. And since April we’ve provided additional, targeted housing support for low-income households by increasing more than 200 local housing allowance rates.
"Since 2011, we have provided a further £1bn in discretionary housing payment for local authorities to support vulnerable claimants with their housing costs.
"We have also delivered over 378,000 new affordable properties since 2010 and we are investing a further £9bn in affordable homes to buy and rent."