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A statement of intent on the LHA

Paul Langley blogs on the far-reaching implications of the UK government’s latest announcement on the LHA and social housing.

The announcement that Local Housing Allowance (LHA) will apply to all social housing tenants on Universal Credit and new or re-let tenancies from 2019 has been coming for some time and is the first step in moving the sector towards a maximum limit on housing costs. As with Universal Credit, many have clung to their faith that ‘it will never happen’.

Since the first debates on the implementation of a new ‘simpler’ benefit there have been discussions on how two different housing benefit schemes would need to align, both social and private. This was followed by the new LHA maxima for new or renewed tenancies but Universal Credit doesn’t capture that data, so who would?  Finally, where would the savings for this policy fall if the devolved top-up system means supported housing maintains its current funding level?

All these questions, for which there is no simple answer, have led to today’s announcement. For those who honed early housing skills in being one of those geniuses who could compete a 38-page housing benefit form, it will be clear to see the benefits for inexperienced Universal Credit staff, who will now see the light at the end of 2018/19 tunnel, although still muddied by how transitional protection will be funded.

Is that the reason or is that too simple?  Are we seeing in fact the DWP arm wrestling its way into regulating social rents across the UK?

The 1% decrease in England was a statement of intent from UK Government, but devolved governments did not follow their lead, and here in Wales, Welsh Government clings to the idea of a rent policy, but is there a need for a policy with the limitations that LHA will now place on all social landlords?

Now is the time for government to trust landlords to set their own rents and for landlords to ensure affordability is at the heart of their own individual rent policies. For the UK Government it’s time to review the calculation of Local Housing Allowance and ensure it’s a true reflection of the housing market in every part of the UK.

Paul Langley is head of business development at Community Housing Cymru

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