Cuts to benefits could cost young people a home

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YOUNG people who are in receipt of housing benefit risk being priced out of local accommodation under new plans to slash the amount handed out.

If, as expected, the mooted proposals to revamp the benefits system get the go ahead in Westminster, locals aged between 25 and 34 living here in Eastbourne will be among the biggest losers.

Currently the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates in Eastbourne are £115.38 for someone in a one bedroom flat and £69.23 for people who have a room in share accommodation.

However, as early as next year, those in one bedroom flats could see their weekly benefit capped at the level for shared accommodation – causing extra demand on that area of the town’s housing market.

And, the Eastbourne Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) has issued a stark warning after its research showed that of the rental opportunities advertised in September, only three per cent were accessible and affordable to people in receipt of LHA.

That figure is a one per cent drop from similar findings recorded in July and has set alarm bells ringing about the CAB’s social policy team.

Sarah Rose, who coordinates that arm of the Eastbourne CAB, said, “It is worrying that rather than seeing a more adequate supply of housing available to rent, the options open to those on the shared accommodation rate have reduced.

“In light of this, we expect to see more cases of rent arrears once the changes take affect.”

The shared room rate restriction already applies to anyone over 25, but the decision to widen the net to take in older claimants aged up to 35 has been widely criticised – particularly in areas like Eastbourne where housing stock is in such high demand.

And the problem is further exasperated by the reluctance of some landlords to take on benefit claimants and the annual influx of students looking for a space in a local house shares.

One of the biggest fears now is that those in one bedroom flats will be unable to pay their rent once the planned cuts kick in and face being evicted from their home.

And, added to that, those who decide instead to look for shared accommodation will find themselves facing an already crowded market.

The CAB’s survey looked at information in the Herald, Gazette, Friday Ad, estate agency websites as well as date supplied by Eastbourne Borough Council’s housing department.

Of the 138 different available accommodation for single people, only 72 per cent was in shared accommodation and just four were in the price bracket of LHA claimants. In addition to those, a further three were advertised at £70 a week – just over the weekly payments.

However, even with those three included, the per cent of available shared accommodation in an affordable price range was still only five per cent.