More than nine in ten properties in the private rental sector are unaffordable for families on benefits and with a chronic shortage in social homes an increasing number of people are struggling to find an affordable home.
This is according to a new report from the National Housing Federation (NHF), which warns that the benefits freeze is “pushing low-income families to the brink”.
The report finds that 94% of private rental properties are unaffordable for families on Housing Benefit, or the equivalent Local Housing Allowance (LHA), and 65% of these are families in work.
The NHS says this is fuelling the rise in homelessness, which is now at record levels, as well as contributing to children living in overcrowded and poor quality accommodation.
LHA 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.
This means that in some parts of the country less than 1% of private rented properties are covered by LHA.
The National Housing Federation is 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.
They are also calling for £12.8bn annual investment in building new social housing, so that fewer families are forced to seek more expensive housing in the private rented market.
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.
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.”
*Case study provided by the National Housing Federation.