Low-income Londoners face ‘unbridgeable gap’ between rent and housing benefit

London Councils has responded to new research from Crisis on the impact of fast-rising rents on family finances.

File photo dated 05/03/15 of a Bellway homes housing development in Cannock, West Midlands, as figures show more than 100,000 people have been helped on to or up the housing ladder by the Government’s Help to Buy schemes.

The charity warns that families will have to cut back on grocery shopping unless housing benefit is increased. Its analysis found that Londoners are hit the hardest, as the shortfall between housing benefit and rent costs is more than the average weekly food shop for a small family.

Local housing allowance – the housing benefit for those renting in the private sector – has been frozen by the government since 2016.

Cllr Muhammed Butt, London Councils’ Executive member for welfare, empowerment and inclusion, said: “This latest research from Crisis confirms that low-income Londoners face an unbridgeable gap between their rent and the support they receive for their housing costs.

“Families across London would have to forgo almost their entire weekly food bill to cover their rent in full. This is just not possible and, without additional support, the inevitable outcome is that families become homeless.

“Boris Johnson has rightly made tackling homelessness an urgent priority and London boroughs are determined to work with the government to make this a reality. However, this cannot be achieved until low-income households receive sufficient support to pay their rent. That is why we’re seeking a commitment from the government to increase Local Housing Allowance rates to cover at least the bottom third of rents.”

London faces the most severe homelessness crisis in the country and accounts for almost 70% of England’s total number of homeless households.

London Councils’ own research shows that the LHA freeze has significantly reduced the number of homes affordable to the 200,000 low-income London households receiving the benefit. Analysis showed only between 0 and 15% of private sector rents across the capital were affordable on LHA rates and almost half of London claimants did not receive enough housing benefit to cover their rent.

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