Call for government action on gap between housing benefit and rent paid


According to a new report, low-income tenants across England are facing a ‘housing black hole’ as rents soar and housing benefit freezes, leaving a huge deficit of truly affordable housing.

Research finds that just 12% of rental properties listed last year were affordable for housing benefit recipients.

Findings from Crisis and Zoopla, the property platform, reveal that almost half of local authority areas in England had fewer than 20 affordable one-bed homes listed in a year.

And the charity warns that with rising evictions and rising numbers of homeless people in England, the growing pressure of unaffordable rents for those on low incomes, as well as a chronic lack of supply of rented accommodation, looks likely to drive many more out of their homes. .

One in four tenants depends on housing assistance

Research found that at the start of the year, one in four private tenants in England (1.2 million households) depended on housing benefit to keep a roof over their head.

By contrast, an analysis of data from Zoopla listings found that less than one in eight properties available to rent last year were affordable for housing benefit recipients, leaving tens of thousands facing shortfalls rent in a context of the cost of living crisis.

The research, which examines new property listings for one-, two- and three-bed properties across England between May 2021 and April 2022 and their affordability relative to housing benefit rates, shows that monthly rental prices means are now 12% higher than before. the pandemic.

But housing assistance has remained frozen since March 2020 and is based on rents from 2018-19.

The government has pledged to increase other means-tested benefits

In May this year, the government pledged to increase other means-tested benefits in line with April 2023 inflation, but it has so far ignored housing allowances.

The report also reveals that the gaps between housing benefit and rents are more than double what the most recent government figures suggest – with low-income tenants forced to find, on average, an extra £648 for a bed, £1,052. for a twin bed and £1,655 for a three bed a year, compared to £313, £371 and £498, respectively.

These growing deficits come at a time when high inflation, skyrocketing energy bills and chronic housing shortages leave poor households with little room to manoeuvre.

The problem is more acute for one-bed houses – with analysis showing that in almost 50% of local authorities less than 20 listed properties were affordable for people on housing benefit in the last year.

44% of tenants are single or childless couples

This despite the fact that 44% of private tenants are singles or couples without children and for whom a one-bed property would be most suitable.

In a new partnership, Crisis and Zoopla have teamed up to call on the government to urgently invest in housing benefit in the autumn budget if it is to prevent thousands of people from being made homeless.

Matt Downie, Crisis’s chief executive, said: ‘It is deeply disturbing that England’s poorest households are being forced to fight for a small number of affordable homes or buy thousands that they don’t have. just have no order to find a place for Direct.

“We cannot sit idly by as people struggle with an increasingly turbulent and stifling rental market while housing benefit – the only lifeline they have – is grossly insufficient and unable to meet their needs. their needs.”

“The government can no longer ignore rising rents”

He added: “Enough is enough. The government can no longer ignore rising rents in the cost of living crisis – it must urgently invest in housing allowances so that they cover the lowest third of rents and put a plan in place to deliver the social housing we demand, if people are to have a fighting chance to find a home they can afford.

Richard Donnell, chief executive of Zoopla, said: “The gap between housing benefit levels and actual rents is widening as demand for rental accommodation exceeds supply.

“There is a greater compression of supply on the rental market than on the sale market.

“This is compounded by an increasing number of private owners exiting the market in the face of tax changes and increased regulation, a trend that is expected to continue.”

He added: “The challenge for national and local governments is to encourage increased supply across all tenures and a policy environment that continues to attract new investment in leased areas.”

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