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LHA cap delayed by a year for supported housing

The Westminster government has announced a one-year delay to a new housing benefit cap after warnings that it poses a major threat to the future of supported housing projects.

The 2015 Autumn Statement included a cap on social housing rents to local housing allowance (LHA) levels from April 2018 for tenants signing new tenancies after April 2016. The cap will now apply to new tenancies signed from April 2017 to allow ministers time to analyse the results of research into supported housing costs that is due to be published shortly.

Last month CIH Cymru signed an open letter to Lord Freud, the UK minister for welfare reform, with six other Welsh housing organisations to raise serious concerns about the potential impact of this decision for providers of supported housing in Wales. Potentially it would affect more than 80% of the 35,000 Welsh supported housing units delivered by social landlords, impacting on many people who may be escaping domestic abuse, experiencing mental health problems or be at risk of homelessness.

Welsh housing minister Lesley Griffiths has called for an exemption for supported housing.

CIH Cymru director Kevin Howell said:

‘We are pleased to hear that the government will be delaying the application of LHA to supported accommodation rents, in order to consider evidence from this review.  As we made clear in our letter to the Minister supported housing in Wales makes a vital contribution to our most vulnerable citizens.’

‘This review must take into account the cost benefit of providing additional support through specialist housing; introducing a cap based on local housing allowance may make supported housing unviable in Wales and delay planned investment in these much needed services leaving tens of thousands of people without the support that they require.’

In a written answer in the House of Lords on Tuesday, Lord Freud said the one-year exception would apply to refuges for people fleeing domestic abuse, homelessness provision and housing for ex-offenders as well as supported housing for older and disabled people. It would also extend to housing co-operatives, almshouses and community land trusts.

Lord Freud explained:

‘I am doing this because I understand the importance of ensuring that both those living in supported accommodation and those who provide this type of accommodation receive appropriate protections. This is why we are awaiting the outcome of a Supported Accommodation research project and subsequent policy review, to ensure support is focused on the most vulnerable, and appropriate groups are safeguarded. I consider it important to have evidence to support any decisions made, before determining the level of any protections for this cohort beyond April 2017.’

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