AQO 536/16-21

Ms Nichola Mallon
Social Democratic and Labour Party
North Belfast

Tabled Date: 13/10/2016
Answered On Date: 25/10/2016
Priority Written: No

To ask the Minister for Communities for his assessment of the impact of the cap on the Local Housing Allowance.

Since 2008, tenants in the private rented sector who are eligible to receive Housing Benefit have been subject to the Local Housing Allowance Cap. Since April 2016, this cap is subject to a four year freeze.
The key feature of the Local Housing Allowance is that it is based both on the market rent levels for the area a claimant lives in as well as how many people live with the claimant..
A clear and transparent set of Local Housing Allowance rates help tenants and landlords know how much financial help is available. When tenants know in advance the maximum amount of housing benefit available to them it allows them to make an informed choice regarding their housing options based on what they can afford.
Housing Benefit claimants facing a shortfall in rent due to the application of the Local Housing Allowance are able to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment to make up the difference between the contractual rent and their Housing Benefit entitlement. The Housing Executive currently has a Discretionary Housing Payment budget of £3,400,000
In comparing Discretionary Housing Payment awards and payments over the period 1st April to 30th September for the last 2 years, there has been an increase in awards over the 2 periods of 155 and spend has increased by £282,336.
It is not certain that the increases in awards and value of payments made are directly attributable to the freeze in Local Housing Allowance rates but it is likely that this will have been a contributory factor.
There is no clear evidence of tenants moving property as a result of the freeze on Local Housing Allowance rent levels