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Ensuring everyone has a safe and stable home benefits us all. How can we make this happen?

Jasmine Basran, Policy and Public Affairs Manager

Ensuring everyone has safe, stable housing creates a stronger society where homelessness has no place. Having a home is a moral right that many of us take for granted. But currently in Great Britain, too many of us suffer the inhumanity of unsafe, temporary, or no housing.

No one should face the indignity of homelessness. We know that homelessness isn’t inevitable, and that ending it for good is possible. To do so, we must focus on tackling the root causes and prevent homelessness from happening in the first place.

What are the root causes of homelessness? 

Earlier this month the Work and Pensions Select Committee, a cross-party committee of MPs that looks at our welfare system, published a report on how well our welfare system is working. Their report considered a wide range of changes that have been made and the impact on people including in terms of poverty and homelessness.

One of the key areas the report focused on was Local Housing Allowance rates. Local Housing Allowance rates, commonly known as housing benefit, were designed to help people cover the cost of a privately rented home. Since 2011, the rates were meant to cover the cost of the cheapest third of private rents. But policy changes and cuts to the rates, including a four-year freeze since 2016, have meant that Local Housing Allowance rates are falling far short of providing this much-needed support. This is putting people at risk of homelessness as people are trapped in situations where they are unable to cover the cost of rent and essentials like food for their family.

In their report, the Work and Pensions Select Committee concluded that the freeze on Local Housing Allowance rates must end, and the rates should be invested in so that they cover the cheapest third of rents, as was the case in 2011.

Housing benefit and homelessness

The findings from the Work and Pensions Select Committee report echo Crisis’ experiences with supporting people trapped in, or at risk of, homelessness. Time and again, we see in our services how the current levels of Local Housing Allowance rates are leaving individuals and families locked in a struggle to pay their rent and still have enough left over to feed their family and pay bills. In the worst cases, it is causing homelessness. And when homelessness does happen, Local Housing Allowance rates also prevent people from finding a home again as there are so few homes that are affordable within the rates.  

Earlier this year, we launched our Cover the Cost campaign. The campaign calls on the Government to invest in Local Housing Allowance rates in the upcoming Spending Review to make sure they prevent and end homelessness, instead of contributing to it as currently. Through the campaign, we’ve heard from far too many people across our country facing the same desperate situation; worried about homelessness because of inadequate Local Housing Allowance rates.  One campaign supporter told us:

“I am on Housing Benefit and the maximum for a single person over 35 is £650 [per month]. That would be unlikely to cover rent on any one-bed flats here, nor even many bedsits. The shortfall between the Housing Benefit I receive and my actual rent is nearly £300! When I moved, I was working and earned a good salary… Now, however, my physical and mental health is taking a toll on me. I am behind on my rent…though my landlord has been understanding thus far…I have been homeless before, though mercifully not street homeless…I have absolutely no doubt that my life will utterly fall apart if I lose my flat”.

No one should have to live like this. We know the long-term answer is building enough social housing, but people need immediate help to prevent homelessness now. Investing in Local Housing Allowance rates will give people immediate help to keep their privately rented home. It will help people currently trapped in homelessness, like sofa-surfing and temporary accommodation without facilities to cook and clean, to move on and find a privately rented home. It will also help the Government achieve its own commitment to ending rough sleeping in England by 2027 and reducing homelessness.

"We have to put that right"

We have a unique opportunity to make sure Local Housing Allowance rates are adequately funded and people get this much needed support. The freeze on the rates ends next year, and the Government must decide how much money to invest in the rates. And next month, the Government will announce a Spending Review which will set out spending priorities for the next year.

We are already building momentum. Last month, we saw MPs hold a Westminster Hall debate on Local Housing Allowance and homelessness. Conservative, Labour, SNP, and DUP MPs attended to discuss this important issue. And Will Quince, the Minister in the Department for Work and Pensions responsible for homelessness, said:

“I am also aware that too many people have to top up their housing from their benefits, which are designed for the cost of living. We have to put that right”.

But we need help to make enough noise so that this issue is rightly heard above all the political clamoring happening at the moment. Help us to do so by signing up to join the Cover the Cost campaign, and keep your eyes peeled in the next month for information on how to get involved and make this change possible. Together, we can make sure our welfare system supports everyone to find a safe and stable home so that in our society, homelessness has no place.

For media enquiries:

E: media@crisis.org.uk
T: 020 7426 3880

For general enquiries:

E: enquiries@crisis.org.uk
T: 0300 636 1967