Local people are at risk of homelessness because housing benefits are too low to cover actual housing costs.

Hampshire-based youth charity Step by Step works with young people facing homelessness, many of whom are unable to move on to independent living because the benefits they receive fall short of covering even the lowest of rents.

Chris Furness, support worker at Step by Step, sees this issue first hand. 

“Many young people simply can’t afford to live independently once they move on from us. I know of some who have gone back to sofa surfing,” he said.

Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates are used to determine how much housing benefit a claimant receives, usually paid as part of Universal Credit. 

The rate is worked out by looking at the rents charged by private landlords in the local area. 

However, the rate of LHA has been frozen in recent years, meaning it has failed to keep up with rising rents.

Young people are particularly affected by this LHA shortfall, as those under 25 years old receive a lower rate of Universal Credit from which to top up the missing rent.

One such young person is Corrine (pictured), who became homeless when her mum kicked her out. 

Step by Step was able to accommodate and support her; the problem was when she was ready to move on. 

The LHA in Corinne’s area is £342 a month, while the average rate for a single room in a shared house is £550 a month.

Landlords appear to be aware rent is simply not affordable on Universal Credit. 

Most do not respond to Corrine’s enquiries when they find out she receives benefits.

Kelly Headen, Step by Step’s head of fostering and supported lodgings, said: “I find this just unbelievable – that the benefits given to vulnerable people are not enough to cover the social housing that exists to support the same vulnerable people.”

Step by Step has authored an article exploring this issue, incorporating recent research and the view from the front line, and including potential solutions.

This can be read at www.stepbystep.org.uk/lha