Private Rental Growth – Housing Benefit
Two housing charities have called for the government to invest more in housing benefit so it rises in line with private rental growth.
Crisis and The Joseph Rowntree Foundation polled over 4,000 UK adults, 75% of whom agree housing benefit should increase with private rental growth.
Meanwhile, 76% of those surveyed said they agree that housing benefit represents a practical way for the government to reduce homelessness.
Housing benefit was introduced in 2011 so that people on low incomes could afford the cheapest 30% of private rental properties in their area.
However, the charities argue that housing benefit rates now fall ‘woefully short’ of the true cost of renting, which continues to rise in many parts of the country.
They argue that ‘years of underinvestment’ and a four-year freeze since 2016 have exacerbated the problem while average rents have grown significantly.
They cite research from Crisis, published earlier this year, which shows that housing benefit shortfalls have led to little or no affordable private housing across many areas of the UK.
This is pushing thousands of individuals and families to the brink of homelessness, according to the charities.
“Every day, we hear of people losing their homes as the constant pressure of rising living costs become impossible to bear,” says Jon Sparkes, Crisis chief executive.
“The government has committed to reduce homelessness, but without addressing the root causes such as unaffordable rents, homelessness will continue to rise.”
He said that despite potentially being the quickest and most effective way to prevent homelessness, housing benefit is ‘fundamentally flawed’ because of severe under investment.
Darren Baxter, housing policy and partnerships manager at The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, adds: “A home should be an anchor against being swept into poverty but for many families the cost of renting a home is adding an extra strain.”
“It does not have to be this way. We can ensure housing costs do not push households into poverty if we invest in building the low cost rented homes and, in the short term, invest in housing benefit so that it reflects the real costs of renting.”