Thursday, 19 January 2017

Freud promises to 'sort out LHA cap'

Lord David Freud has said the government will “urgently” act to make sure protections are in place for supported housing tenants from a benefit cut but refused to say what form this could take.

The welfare reform minister, during a debate on the Welfare Reform and Work Bill last night, responded to concerns from peers that capping housing benefit for social tenants in line with Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates will make supported housing schemes unviable.

He said: “I am not in a position to be utterly specific about how we will do this, but I can say that we will put in place the appropriate protections for those in supported housing.

“DWP [the Department for Work and Pensions] and DCLG [the Department for Communities and Local Government] will be working closely together to make sure that those protections are in place.

“We appreciate the concern, and we will aim to do this urgently.” He said there are “various solutions” the government could discuss.

The government yesterday announced a one-year exemption for supported housing from the 1% rent cut while ministers consider the findings from a review due to report in March.

This means supported housing rents can still be increased by inflation plus 1% in 2016/17, as opposed to general needs rents which will have to be cut by 1%.  

The exemption also applies to housing co-operatives, almshouses and community land trusts. Lord Freud said his commitment to protect supported housing tenants from the Local Housing Allowance-linked cap should be seen “in the context” of this 1% annual exemption. “We will now just sort out the caps,” he said.

The one-year pause to the rent cut and promises of protection from the LHA-linked cap were enough to persuade peers to withdraw an amendment to exempt supported housing from the rent cut.

The amendment had been tabled by four peers, including Lord Richard Best with the support of Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Lord Best welcomed the one-year pause to the rent cut as “entirely sensible” but called on the government to go further and confirm a similar moratorium for the LHA-linked benefit cap.

He said: “The many people in organisations who are working hard for those in need of supported housing, and the many people who need those homes, will sleep much easier… if he can confirm that the one-year pause he has so helpfully decided upon for the rent cut will also apply to the LHA cap, and will ease the problem. “

Social landlords today renewed calls for supported housing to be exempt from the benefit cap measures.

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