Should housing benefit increase in line with rents?

Warren Lewis
10th October 2019
Rent Up 551

Calls for the government to invest in housing benefit as an opinion poll show overwhelming support from three-quarters of respondents who agree that housing benefit should increase if rents go up.

Crisis and The Joseph Rowntree Foundation commissioned Public First to conduct a survey of over 4,000 UK adults, which also showed that 76% of people think that housing benefit is a practical way for the Government to stop people experiencing homelessness in the first place.

In 2011, housing benefit was set so people on low incomes could afford the cheapest 30% of private rentals in their area. Following years of underinvestment, including a four-year freeze since 2016, the rates now fall woefully short of the true cost of renting, which continues to rise in many parts of the country.

Research published earlier this year by Crisis showed that housing benefit shortfalls meant that in many areas across the UK, there is little to no affordable private housing. This is pushing thousands of individuals and families to the brink of homelessness.

Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive at Crisis, said: “A safe and stable home is fundamental to our dignity and humanity. But every day, we hear of people losing their homes as the constant pressure of rising living costs become impossible to bear.

The Westminster Government has committed to reduce homelessness, but without addressing the root causes such as unaffordable rents, homelessness will continue to rise. Housing benefit is an important tool and could be the quickest and most effective way to prevent homelessness in the short term, but it is fundamentally flawed because of severe under investment. Ending homelessness is truly within our capabilities and government must act now to deliver on its promises.”

Darren Baxter, Housing Policy and Partnerships Manager at The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “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.”

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