Universal Credit could leave struggling Wakefield tenants £64 short on rent each month, says Shelter
Private tenants in Wakefield who are claiming Universal Credit could be left struggling to cover their monthly rent, analysis suggests.
Housing charity Shelter says hundreds of thousands of private renters across England are finding it hard to cover their rent as the pandemic hits their earnings and benefits don’t cover the costs.
Local Housing Allowance rates are used to calculate the maximum amount of housing support a household on Universal Credit can receive, based on local rental prices and the number of bedrooms they need.
The average monthly rent for a two-bedroom property in Wakefield was £539 during the 12 months to September, the latest Office for National Statistics figures show.
But households assessed as requiring two bedrooms could only be entitled to around £475 per month in 2020-21, which would leave the average renter £64 short.
LHA rates are set according to Broad Rental Market Areas, which have been matched to council areas by Shelter. In places where more than one BRMA covers an area, the charity matched the BRMA most likely to apply to local renters.
LHA rates cover the bottom 30% of rents in a local area for a given property size, but Shelter says that this does not cover the costs for many on benefits.
The charity says more than two in five private renting households now need help with housing benefit, which it says is "clear proof that there are just not enough genuinely affordable homes to go around".
“Hundreds of thousands of private renters have found themselves struggling to pay their rent during the pandemic because they’ve lost income," said the charity's chief executive Polly Neate.
"Many have applied for housing benefit in a bid to safeguard their home, only to find the support available doesn’t come close to covering their costs – especially if they are paying average rents. Countless families are falling into debt and rent arrears as a result.
"Worse yet, the benefit cap means some families in financial dire straits are losing out on the help they need as this cruel and unnecessary cap is fixed regardless of people’s actual rent costs."
The Government should review housing benefit levels to stop people becoming homeless and scrap the benefit cap, she added.
A government spokesman said: “We have taken unprecedented action to protect renters during this pandemic, including increasing Local Housing Allowance rates – benefiting more than 1 million households by £600 a year on average.
“We have also changed the law in England to ensure bailiffs do not enforce evictions until January in all tiers, with no eviction notices to be served until January 11 and, given the 14-day notice period, no evictions are expected until January 25 at the earliest.”