Many people have recently contacted me about Local Housing Allowance (LHA) and the related campaign by the housing and homelessness charity Crisis.
I do not believe the Government’s decision to freeze LHA rates was right and I am concerned about the effect that this has had on my constituents in Lewisham Deptford and residents across the country.
Research published by Crisis found that cuts to housing benefit meant that, in 94% of areas across the UK, at most only a fifth of private rented homes are affordable for the young single people, couples, or small families who rely on housing benefit. Crisis has warned that people who are in low-paid work are becoming, or at risk of becoming, homeless as a result of cuts to LHA. Many councils are being forced to use expensive temporary accommodation due to a lack of affordable housing.
Housing charities, local authorities and social landlords have raised their concerns that freezing LHA rates would result in shortfalls between rent levels and claimants’ entitlement to housing support, resulting in rent arrears and increasing the risk of homelessness for affected tenants.
I was disappointed that the Chancellor did not use his recent Spending Round to end the freeze on LHA, despite some increase to Discretionary Housing Payments. There was also no extra Government investment in new affordable homes and no action to help private renters with soaring costs.
Until social housing can meet demand, I believe people on low incomes deserve secure, decent living conditions with affordable rents. I support a new definition of affordable housing that is linked to local income, and I am committed to addressing the shortage in social housing by suspending the Right to Buy. I also believe councils and housing association should be backed with new funding, powers and flexibilities to ensure they can build at scale.
In order to meet the demand for social housing the Labour Party pledged to build one million new genuinely affordable homes over 10 years when elected. I was also pleased to see that on world homelessness day Jeremy Corbyn vowed that a Labour Government would put an end to rough sleeping.