I am opposed to the Government’s decision to freeze LHA rates and I am concerned about the impact this will have on private sector renters in Ipswich and across the country.
Housing charities, local authorities and social landlords all raised their concerns that cuts to LHA rates would lead to a shortfall between rent levels and claimants’ entitlement to housing support, resulting in rent arrears for many and increased homelessness. This is particularly worrying, given that in the last six years the number of people sleeping rough on our streets has more than doubled, the number of homeless households has risen by almost half to nearly 60,000 and this year well over 120,000 children are without a home.
Last week just hours before the Opposition-led debate on this topic the Prime Minister announced that the LHA rates would not apply to social rents, including supported housing. Charities, housing associations and councils had warned since early in 2016 that this could lead to the closure of vital housing for some of the most vulnerable people in our country. But it took the prospect of losing a vote in the House of Commons to finally persuade the Government to change its mind – this is a major victory, and an indication that Labour MPs can be effective even if we are not running the Government.
However, the LHA cap will still apply to the private rented sector. The housing charity, Shelter, says the Government’s proposals undermine the commitment to reduce homelessness as renters may struggle to find properties that are affordable for anyone needing housing benefit.
At the recent General Election I stood on a manifesto that promised to fund all forms of housing adequately for the long-term. Additionally, I am committed to abolishing the bedroom tax, reinstating Housing Benefit for under-21s which the Government has cut, and changing the culture of our social security system so that it is supportive and enabling.
The Labour Party will be urging the Government to abandon its proposed cap to LHA rates, undertake a review of the adequacy of support for housing costs, build more affordable homes to rent, and give more security to tenants.
As an initial action, I will send a written question on the issue of Housing Benefit for private renters to the Secretary of State.