Rt Hon Rishi Sunak
Chancellor of the Exchequer
I am writing to urge you to support Shelter’s call for the Government to implement two key emergency measures to protect renters.
It is vital that the Government lifts Local Housing Allowance rates temporarily (at least) to cover the median cost of renting in each local area (50th percentile), and further to this, lifts the benefit cap to ensure families can access the support they desperately need during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.
I was pleased to see that the Government took the decision to re-align LHA rates to cover the 30th percentile of local rents for 12 months. However, I have long held the view that this should be the bare minimum, and frankly, it doesn’t go far enough when people are facing serious financial insecurity and worries as a result of the pandemic. To provide a safety net that truly works, LHA rates must be lifted to cover the average cost of renting in each local area, ie to cover the 50th percentile of local rents.
The Covid-19 crisis has thrown into sharp focus the unsustainable shortfalls between the cost of renting and the amount provided through the housing element of Universal Credit (UC). In the face of growing job insecurity and economic uncertainty, 1.8 million people are now applying for UC and it needs to provide a genuine financial lifeline.
In my own constituency, within the Brighton and Hove BRMA, the shortfalls have long been unmanageable and the situation is desperate for even great numbers of people now. For a single parent with one child, the average rent is £1155, yet the housing element of UC is only £1,000.01, leaving a shortfall of £154.99. Once they have paid rent, there is only £486.57 left to live on.
Similarly, for a couple with three children, the average rent is £1,467.00, with the housing element of UC at £1,199.98 leaving a shortfall of £267.02 – leaving only £787.28 for a family to live on after they have paid rent.
These figures also demonstrate the critical need to immediately lift the benefit cap. The Institute for Fiscal Studies have said that “The cap means that most of these families, and some of those who have since lost employment during the crisis won’t benefit at all from the temporary increases in benefits announced by the Chancellor”. Giving with one hand and taking away with the other is immoral, inefficient and deeply irresponsible at any time, and particularly at present.
The Government have shown that unprecedented actions can be taken if the political will exists. I urge you to implement the two changes set out above, to protect and support private renters and people in urgent need of financial security at this time of crisis.
I look forward to your response.
Caroline Lucas MP