Just 1 in 50 on housing benefits can afford to rent a flat anywhere in Edinburgh, new figures show
Only 1.8 percent, or 12 two-bedroom properties out of the 662 on the open market which were analysed as part of an investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalists, were affordable for those dependent on Local Housing Allowance (LHA).
The revelation comes alongside figures showing the cost of the homelessness crisis in the Capital with more than £42 million spent on temporary accommodation in 2018/19 alone.
LHA is set at £154.28 per week in Edinburgh, with a rise of £254.62 per month necessary for the cheapest 30 percent of properties to be affordable.
'This is a Cruel Policy'
Housing charity Shelter added the freeze means many people renting on benefits are forced to choose between eating, heating their homes, or forced into homelessness due to the lack of affordable homes.
Earlier this year, Edinburgh Council backed the Crisis in Scotland campaign to increase LHA in line with actual rent costs.
Housing convenor Kate Campbell labelled the LHA free “cruel” and called on the UK government to reconsider the policy immediately.
She said: “As I wrote in my letter to the Chancellor the separation of LHA rates from actual rents has led to more households becoming homeless or being unable to find homes in the private rented sector.
“This puts more pressure on our limited stock of social housing, which was decimated by the Tory policy of right to buy, and means homeless households on the lowest incomes are spending far too long in temporary accommodation before moving to a permanent home.
“This is a cruel policy which has led to increased inequality, hardship and homelessness.”
He said: “In a city where there is such a dramatic shortage of council or housing association homes people often have no other choice than to rent privately.
“It is a classic double-whammy and the cause is the brutal freeze on local housing allowance imposed by the UK Government coupled with runaway inflation in private rents and a chronic shortage of social rented homes.”
Conservative group leader Iain Whyte denied the issues related to the Right to Buy and said the problems are due to a lack of house building.
Only 15 percent of homes in Edinburgh are available for social rent, with the Right to Buy policy blamed by the SNP for the reduction in social housing stock.
He said: “Either Edinburgh becomes increasingly unaffordable simply because there is limited land supply or we find a way to build a lot more housing.
“I don’t see Right to Buy as having anything to do with this at all. They are still there, they haven’t gone away. The overall housing supply has not decreased.
“The evidence is that initially people who bought them, stayed in them. I imagine some of that may have changed now through inheritance or passing it on to family but that is the same in any housing market.”
The council aims to build 20,000 ‘council-led’ homes by 2027 with 4,000 homes finished or at an advanced stage.
It is also aiming to have enough housing to allocate homes to those presenting as homeless which could eliminate the need for temporary accommodation with research which could lead to the establishment of rent pressure zones also underway.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, called on the government to lift the freeze and raise LHA rates to cover the bottom third of the rental market.
She said: “The freeze on housing benefits has been truly disastrous. People up and down the country are having to make impossible decisions on whether to cut back on food for their family or heat their home just to make up the shortfall between their benefit and rent.
“In the worst case scenario, families are facing homelessness simply because there is nowhere they can afford to live. Even when a family is able to afford their rent, we see many being turned away by landlords and agents with a ‘no DSS’ policy - a practice we believe to be discriminatory and unlawful.
The Scottish Government added: “Evidence shows the UK Government’s underinvestment in the LHA means it is not serving its intended purpose and we have repeatedly called on the Department for Work and Pensions to change LHA rates.”
A UK government spokesman said: “Providing quality and fair social housing is an absolute priority. The Government increased more than 360 Local Housing Allowance rates this year, by targeting extra funding at low-income households.”