Local Housing Allowance - urgent review

A letter from 27 leading Lib Dem councillors to the Secretary of State regarding some key concerns the council has in terms of the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates and the rapidly increasing gap between these and the current private rental market.

Mel Stride MP
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
Caxton House, 6-12 Tothill Street
London, SW1H 9DA

Dear Secretary of State,

I need to bring to your urgent attention some key concerns this Council has in terms of the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates and the rapidly increasing gap between these and the current private rental market.

LHA rates have remained frozen since April 2020, despite private rents rising rapidly across most parts of the country. The Housing Benefits/Housing Element of Universal Credit plays a vital role in ensuring vulnerable members of our community have access to safe and affordable housing. However, current LHA rates are no longer helping renters on low incomes, given the substantial gap that many people simply cannot afford. These large shortfalls leave private renters at high risk of rent arrears and eviction. The reality is that those who cannot meet the shortfall will face homelessness - keeping to the current LHA rates will inevitably increase homelessness figures and street homelessness. One in three of all renters receive help through benefits to meet their housing costs. LHA rates have been frozen based on rents in 2018-19 while private rents have risen rapidly to the highest recorded levels. Most households will have a minimum shortfall of £150 a month which they must make up from other limited income at a time when the cost of living keep increasing. To give a local example from my council, Suffolk is the 13th most expensive county based on average rent price in the country. The average rent growth rate in Suffolk between the years ending September 2021 and September 2022 was 8.0%. In East Suffolk the average rent is £703 per month with an average change of 11.9% in 2022. If rents continue to grow at this rate, average rents will reach £1,120 by 2025. I know this is an issue across the country so have invited some colleagues to add their support to this letter – see the end of this letter for the list.

The evidence is clear; the government must end the damaging freeze to LHA rates which is leaving low-income families with very little affordable housing options and reconsider the ongoing freeze to the LHA rates to be reviewed.

Further, restoring the LHA rate to the 50th percentile would give a much-needed boost to social housing which faces a recession.

We are deeply concerned about this matter and would urge the government to reconsider as a matter of priority.

Yours faithfully,

  • Cllr David Beavan, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Housing
  • Cllr Joe Harris, Leader of the LGA Liberal Democrat Group and Cotswold District Council
  • Cllr Bridget Smith, Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council and Vice Chair of the District Councils Network
  • Cllr Ruth Dombey, Leader of the London Borough of Sutton
  • Cllr Rowena Hay, Leader of Cheltenham Borough Council
  • Cllr Tim Adams, Leader of North Norfolk District Council
  • Cllr David Whipp, Deputy Leader of Pendle Borough Council
  • Cllr Jonathan Brook, Leader of Westmorland and Furness Council
  • Cllr Bill Revans, Leader of Somerset Council
  • Cllr Mike Bell, Leader of North Somerset Council
  • Cllr Stephen Conway, Leader of Wokingham Council
  • Cllr Vikki Slade, Leader of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Councils
  • Cllr Stephen Robinson, Leader of Chelmsford City Council
  • Cllr Keith House, Leader of Eastleigh Borough Council
  • Cllr Tim Prater, Deputy Leader of Folkestone and Hythe Council
  • Cllr Ruth Brown, Deputy Leader of North Hertfordshire Council
  • Cllr Stephen Holt, Leader of Eastbourne Borough Council
  • Cllr Chris White, Leader of St Albans Council
  • Cllr Gale Waller, Leader of Rutland County Council Cllr Adrian Moss, Leader of Chichester District Council
  • Cllr Martin Tod, Leader of Winchester City Council
  • Cllr Andy Graham, Leader of West Oxfordshire District Council
  • Cllr Susan Juned, Leader of Stratford Upon Avon District Council
  • Mayor Peter Taylor, Elected Mayor of Watford
  • Cllr Martin Boffey, Leader, Horsham District Council
  • Cllr Susan Holland, Leader, Broadland District Council
  • Cllr Claire Young, Leader of South Gloucestershire Council

Cc. Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities