LGA: Homelessness will rise unless LHA freeze lifted

6 Nov 17

Homelessness will rise unless the freeze is lifted on the Local Housing Allowance rate for families in the private rented sector, council leaders have warned.

The Local Government Association has called on the chancellor to end the freeze in this month’s Budget after a LGA survey revealed 92% of councils feared its continuation would cause a surge in homelessness.

This follows the announcement by the government that LHA rates - the housing benefit for renters in the private sector - would not apply to those in social and supported housing. 

Judith Blake, the LGA’s housing spokesperson, said: “Councils want to end homelessness by preventing it happening in the first place.

“It is hugely positive that the government has decided not to apply the LHA rate to families in social and supported housing.

“We should now take the important step to lift the LHA freeze for private renters and connect it with real rents, which will be massive step towards achieving our national ambition to end homelessness.”

LHA was frozen for four years in April 2016 despite rising in rents in the private sector.

In the last five years private rents have risen by 11% while they are expected to rise a further 5% by 2020, the LGA said.

Blake added: “Without addressing the gap between private renters and LHA, the number of homeless families and children that councils will need to house in temporary accommodation will continue to increase, and our hopes to make a success of the Homelessness Reduction Act will fade.”

She also urged the government to lift the housing borrowing cap and allow councils to retain 100% of Right to Buy receipts, which would allow authorities to build more homes.

An LGA survey showed 96% of responding councils were concerned “homelessness would increase”, and 94% said it would be “more difficult to meet the requirements” of the new Homelessness Reduction Act, if the freeze on LHA was not lifted until 2020.

Nine in 10 councils also said private landlords in their area are renting fewer homes to low income households.

The warning comes as the LGA reported local authorities are currently housing more than 77,000 homeless families in temporary accommodation including more than 120,000 children.

The homelessness charity Shelter also called on the government to act on the LHA freeze. A spokesperson said: “If the government wants to stop the rising tide of despair facing hard-up renters, it must abandon the freeze on LHA for private renters in the autumn Budget.”

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