Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is the cornerstone of the Government's Housing Benefit reform programme which aims to simplify Housing Benefit and ensure it supports the wider objectives for welfare reform.
The fundamental aims of the LHA scheme are to promote:
LHA bases the maximum amount paid to tenants on the size, composition and location of the household. Therefore, two households in similar circumstances in the same area will be entitled to similar amount of benefits.
Tenants are able to take on greater responsibility and choose how to spend their income in a similar way to tenants who are not in receipt of benefits. Like other tenants they are able to choose whether to rent a larger property, or spend less on housing and increase their available income.
The current link between Housing Benefit and individual rents is complex and does not set out clearly what level of state support is available for people on low incomes. A clear and transparent set of allowance rates helps tenants (and landlords) know how much financial help is available from the state. Tenants are able to compare how much support is available towards their housing costs in different areas and for different property sizes.
Empowering people to budget for and to pay their rent themselves, rather than having it paid for them, helps develop the skills unemployed tenants will need as they move back into work. Currently around 40% of Housing Benefit payments in the private rented sector are made to tenants, with the remainder paid straight to landlords. The Government believes that, where possible, local housing allowance should be paid to tenants, as are most other benefits and tax credits.
Ideally, we want people to have their housing payments paid into a bank account and to set up a standing order to pay the rent to their landlord. This has the advantage of being a safe and secure method of payment and provides certainty for landlords that rent will be paid.
Improved administration and reduced barriers to work
For working age tenants, LHA provides a greater certainty about what help is available in and out of work. A simpler system also helps speed up administration of housing payments, giving tenants more confidence when starting a job that any in-work benefit will be paid quickly. A more transparent system may also improve the ability of individuals to move between areas and to take advantage of employment opportunities.