A test search this month showed that only 4 out of 21 three-bedroom properties in Witney area were within the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate. There were none within the 2019-2020 LHA rate in Chipping Norton. This means low income households are unable to afford to local rents and have little hope of accessing social housing.
National homelessness charity Crisis and the National Audit Office have recognised that this shortfall is pushing people into homelessness.
The ending of private sector tenancies is now the biggest single driver of statutory homelessness in England. Data from Crisis Homelessness Monitor 2018 and the National Audit Office’s own analysis highlighted the link between Local Housing Allowance shortfalls and rising homelessness.
Last year, West Oxfordshire District Council accepted 88 people as homeless, more than double than the year before. Over half of those accepted had dependent children.
Average rents in West Oxfordshire are high and out of reach for the vast majority of people on low income and benefits, who are also facing long waits for social housing possibilities. Cottsway are the largest provider of social housing for West Oxfordshire. Their waiting list for housing has
significantly increased over the last 3 years, and in 2017-18 they had over 2000 people waiting for suitable housing.
The Local Housing Allowance (LHA) determines how much help households can receive towards their rent if they are on a low income. For example, a 2-bedroom home near Witney costs on average £1212 per month while the local housing allowance is just £834.08 leaving the majority of people on Housing Benefit falling short by £337.92 per montO
Teresa Archer, Chief Officer at Citizens Advice West , said:
“The Government need to urgently review and reform the Local Housing Allowance rate calculation and make sure these are in line with projected growth of rents to ensure local people still have access to housing. We recently met with Robert Courts, MP for West Oxfordshire to ask for his support and the Government’s help to address this issue and to back a call for an urgent review and realignment of Local Housing Allowance Rates. “
Robert Courts, MP for West Oxfordshire said:
“It was great to meet with Teresa and the rest of the Citizens Advice West Oxfordshire team. We discussed the vital work CAWO has been doing in recent months, and the campaigns they will launch this year.
I was interested to learn about the work they have done on LHA rates; I will look into this matter further and raise it with colleagues in Parliament, including writing to the relevant Minister to ask for more information on this issue in response to the points CAWO have raised. CAWO provide key support to those who need it most, and I am very grateful for all that they do.”
The call for urgent review and realignment is supported by Crisis, Shelter, Citizens Advice, the Local Government Association, the Chartered Institute of Housing and the Residential Landlords Association.
Citizens Advise West Oxfordshire are campaigning to make West Oxfordshire private housing more accessible and affordable. The charity have launched a new private housing survey which focuses on hearing from people affected by high rents, having issues with landlords or letting agents or struggling to find private housing on a low income.
The charity are asking people to share their private housing rental experiences on http://bit.ly/rentingwestox. The two-minute survey is open until 31 March 2019.