Local Housing Allowance and Homelessness — [Mr Adrian Bailey in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:43 am on 24th July 2019.

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Photo of Will Quince Will Quince The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 10:43 am, 24th July 2019

The right hon. Gentleman refers to rough sleeping. Often people lump homelessness and rough sleeping together, but there is a huge difference between them. The Government are taking considerable action on rough sleeping. I will happily meet him, or arrange for the Housing and Homelessness Minister to do so, in order to discuss it in more detail. I know that he cares hugely about this issue, and contributes to debates on it. I share his passion. The Government are taking significant action, but he is right that we must look at LHA rates. I hope I made it clear at the outset that I am doing that with the Secretary of State, and ahead of the next fiscal event we are looking very closely at what more we can do.

Between 2000 and 2010, housing benefit expenditure rose by more than half in real terms, reaching £25 billion in today’s prices. Left unreformed, by 2014-15 housing benefit would have reached £29 billion. That was clearly not sustainable. The measure to freeze local housing allowance rates for four years from April 2016 built on reforms introduced in the previous Parliament, which saved £6 billion in total by 2015-16. Savings from freezing LHA are estimated to be around £655 million for Great Britain over the four-year period of the measure. Our reforms are part of our wider goal to move people from welfare and into work.

We recognise that some places have seen higher increases in rents than others, and have made provision to help people further in those areas, as Ms Buck mentioned. We have used a proportion of the savings from the freeze to reduce the gap between frozen LHA rates and the 30th percentile reference rent in the areas of greatest rental growth. Initially, 30% of the savings from the freeze were used for targeted affordability funding, but we invested an additional £125 million in that funding for the final two years of the freeze. That was based on 50% of the savings rather than 30%.