The housing crisis in the United Kingdom worsens as prices for private rentals escalate, making it unaffordable for people who depend on local housing allowance (LHA) which is on hiatus due to the benefit freeze.
The benefit freeze, introduced by the then Chancellor George Osborne in 2014 was set to save the nation £3 billion and was to last for two years is now on its 4th year, and well on its way to the next, is claimed to be sweeping people off to poverty, struggling to pay for rent and scrimping on food.
Despite the pressing need for shelter, there were no takers for the 87 rooms to let in the outer south-west London and southern Greater Manchester areas because they’re simply unaffordable for people whose budget are on housing benefit.
Before the freeze, 1.2 million households counted on the local housing allowance to be able to afford private rentals, but the government putting social security on hold, the continuous rise of rent, the escalating cost of living, inadequate income, etc. has caused people to lose their homes. The policy which was supposed to benefit the working populace is actually making life more difficult. The problem now is no longer confined to the availability of housing, but affordability in acquiring one especially in the central areas where the possibility of employment is more apparent.
Pressure on households
London council’s executive member for welfare, Muhammed Butt said that the benefit freeze is causing the rise in homelessness in London, also adding that “Pressures on household finances are immense and are a crucial factor in the increase of homelessness.”
There is a growing clamor for the government to put an end to the suspension of benefits and allow the people to gain a stronger foothold against poverty. Such a move would increase the earnings and improve the living conditions of most households, especially those with children. It is expected that lifting the freeze would raise some 200,000 people out of poverty.
Two-bedroom flats in the outer east London area currently cost £316 a week, the maximum amount covered by the housing benefit is only £244, the huge gap further strains an already overly strained budget, clearly the government provisions are not enough. A spokesperson for the government has stated that “Providing quality and fair social housing is an absolute priority. The government increased more than 360 local housing allowance rates this year, by targeting extra funding at low-income households. We are also investing £4.8bn to build more affordable properties in London and have abolished the housing revenue account borrowing cap, giving councils across the country the tools they need to deliver a new generation of affordable housing.” However, some observers say that although it’s true that shortage of houses is in fact a problem, it doesn’t stand true for all sectors.