With April 2019 now less than two years away, there is an urgent need to fully understand and mitigate the potential impacts of applying the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) cap to the social rented sector.
Last year, NIFHA carried out research to assess the potential impact the LHA cap would have on housing associations and their tenants across Northern Ireland. This research highlighted the disproportionate impact the LHA cap would have on various groups such as rural communities, single tenants under 35 and those requiring sheltered or supported accommodation.
The LHA cap not only places a limit on the amount of Housing Benefit based on the location of a household, it also reduces that amount if a household is deemed to be under occupying their home. This further exacerbates the potential impact the LHA cap might have on social housing tenants, as further research carried out by NIFHA shows that 25% of housing association tenants claiming Housing Benefit are under occupying their home. This amount increases to 40.6% when sheltered and supported tenants are excluded.
To further develop our understanding of the potential impacts the LHA cap will have in Northern Ireland, NIFHA are currently assessing 2017/18 rent and eligible service charges against this year’s updated LHA rates. This data will be combined with data held by NIFHA on Housing Benefit and Welfare Supplementary Payments from April 2017. By combining LHA research data with Housing Benefit and Supplementary Payment data, NIFHA will be able to more accurately predict the potential impact the LHA cap will have on each of its members.
Following this latest research, NIFHA will be writing out to the elected representatives in all 18 Northern Ireland constituencies to highlight how the LHA cap will impact their constituents. We will also be producing an individual impact report for each housing association to help with future planning.
As well as research and briefings, NIFHA are engaged in discussions with local bodies such as the Department for Communities and the Housing Executive to share research findings and inform how the impacts of the LHA cap might be mitigated. Recent discussions with these bodies have identified gaps in current research and joint working ensures these gaps can be addressed so that informed choices can be made. Nationally, NIFHA are collaborating with the National Housing Federation, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations and Community Housing Cymru to ensure that the potential impacts of applying the LHA cap to the social rented sector are fully communicated at the highest level of Government.
As research in this area continues to develop, NIFHA will keep members up to date so that informed decisions can be made. We are grateful for the information already provided by members and we will be providing up to date findings in the coming weeks. If you would like more information on the LHA cap and the potential impacts please contact Paul Armstrong on 028 9023 0446 or firstname.lastname@example.org