Street urges for increase to the Local Housing Allowance

The Mayor of the West Midlands has urged the government to urgently rethink part of the benefits system to protect society’s most vulnerable from becoming homeless.

Andy Street says that the Local Housing Allowance is currently a major factor contributing to the increase in homelessness in the region. Part of Universal Credit, Local Housing Allowance has been frozen for three years while the costs of private-rented housing have continued to rise – meaning more and more people are being evicted for falling into rent arrears.

The former managing director of John Lewis has joined forces with homelessness charities, such as Crisis with its ‘Cover the Cost’ campaign, to press for the government to increase the Local Housing Allowance so 30 per cent of rented homes in any area are affordable for everyone.

Street said: “While business growth in the West Midlands is strong, we have rough sleepers in doorways just a few steps away from expensive new offices, while other people are sleeping on sofas with their friends or family, or living in some of the worst quality shared housing.

“We are doing everything we can to tackle this, and we have seen some success with our Housing First Model, which has already provided accommodation and support for 73 homeless people since last autumn. But we need to go much further if we are to design out homelessness, and that includes an urgent rethink of the Local Housing Allowance.”

Jon Sparkes, chief executive at Crisis, said: “We know that the increasing gap between private rents and housing benefit is putting people under constant pressure to simply meet the basic cost rent. This overwhelming pressure month after month is becoming too much for many and they are being forced into homelessness. No-one should have to live like this.

“To prevent more and more people being pushed into homelessness, we urgently need commitment from the government to both end the current freeze on Local Housing Allowance, and also ensure it is set at a level that covers the real cost of renting. Ending homelessness for good is entirely possible, but it is only achievable with changes like this.”

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