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Housing benefit and available accommodation

The Chartered Institute of Housing and the Guardian have put together the results of a survey into the effect of the housing benefit/LHA limits and the pegging to the bottom third of market rents coming into force in January. Specifically the survey looks at how many private properties in each area will cease to be affordable through housing benefit, how many housing benefit claimants there are in each area and, where available, how many properties remain affordable.

The headline is that just shy of 800,000 properties nationally (including Scotland) will cease to be affordable, though there is considerable variation across areas and even across London boroughs. There is a projected national shortfall for the first time between HB claimants in the private sector and the number of affordable properties on the market.

Some of the results are very disturbing. Westminster has a projected shortfall of some 5,300 properties, Newham some 6,300 and Enfield some 12,000. Merseyside is short of 9,000 affordable properties and Birmingham 11,500.

I presume that this is based on existing rents. If landlords do reduce rents – as devoutly wished by the DCLG – then of course the picture will change. However, in areas of high demand (and for rented accommodation that includes much of the country) it seems unlikely that this will happen. Whatever happens, the next 12 months at least are going to be very difficult for a lot of people.

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.

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