Cuts to housing positive aspects led to above 75,000 extra overcrowded households for the duration of the pandemic

COVID-19 has been described as a “housing disease”. Overcrowded residing situations make it much easier for the virus to distribute, and stats display a connection between overcrowding and mortality from COVID.

In my new study printed in the Intercontinental Journal of Housing Policy, I found that reductions to housing rewards led to a significant boost in overcrowding among private renters in England in the decades top up to the pandemic. My investigation displays that much more than 75,000 further households have been overcrowded all through the pandemic for the reason that of these policies.

Modifications to housing profit

The neighborhood housing allowance (LHA) solution to calculating housing gain for private renters was released by the Labour government in 2008. Previously, housing profit was based on the true rent paid by personal recipients. Arguing that this was undermining operate incentives, the LHA approach in its place intended receiver homes could acquire support up to the median rental price ranges for the related property sizing in their area. The median, or 50th percentile, signifies the “middle” value involving the lowest and optimum values – in this scenario the lowest and best rents, hence creating the lowest priced fifty percent of housing in an area reasonably priced to recipients.

Just after the 2010 election, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition authorities created more modifications with the purpose of decreasing expending. From April 2011, LHA costs were being minimized from the 50th to the 30th percentile, that means that housing advantage would now only cover rents for the most inexpensive 3 out of 10 households in an space. This resulted in an typical reduction of £1,220 per house for each calendar year. Caps relying on home dimension were being also introduced.

The federal government argued that the lower concentrations of help would stimulate reduced lease amounts. However, a authorities-commissioned assessment uncovered that this was not the scenario: the vast the greater part (89%) of the effects fell on tenants who had to find money for their housing costs somewhere else, while just 11% of the consequences fell on landlords by using minimizing rents.

In the a long time that followed this change, the way that LHA charges were being current to continue to keep up with climbing rents was also altered. Previously elevated month to month in accordance to rental rates, from April 2013 boosts took put on a yearly basis, capped at the Client Cost Index evaluate of inflation. The Buyer Cost Index calculates inflation primarily based on the selling price of a variety of products and services, but does not incorporate housing charges.

Yearly will increase were being additional restricted to 1% in 2014 and 2015 in advance of currently being frozen for four years. This led to a widening gap involving LHA fees and rents in the a long time foremost up to the pandemic. For example, in the year to 2016 though improves have been minimal to just 1%, actual rents in England improved by 2.5%.


Just one possible way for renters to adapt to decreased money assistance is to go into lesser and significantly less appropriate residences. In my analysis, I in comparison traits in overcrowding both of those ahead of and following the LHA reductions, as well as amongst non-public renters who do and do not acquire aid. By utilizing this solution, I observed a causal connection involving the coverage improvements and overcrowding.

My assessment first appeared at the immediate outcome of the minimize to LHA charges from the 50th to 30th percentile of rents in an space, getting an boost in overcrowding of about 5% in England. This is equivalent to 75,000 added households residing in overcrowded homes.

I then looked at the longer-expression result of the modifications, like the modifications to to the way LHA prices were set, which undermined the url involving allowances and precise rents. The outcomes demonstrate additional will increase in overcrowding for recipients of housing benefit, even though overcrowding for other private renters ongoing to lessen.

Figure showing the change in overcrowding for recipients and non-recipients of LHA, in advance of and immediately after the 2011 reduction.

Spread inside of households has been one particular of the main routes of COVID-19 transmission, putting men and women in overcrowded properties at bigger chance. Overcrowding can make self-isolation and decreasing chance substantially tougher and much less nice, and is associated with poorer psychological and bodily wellness.

Through the pandemic the govt did increase the LHA stages back again to the real 30th percentile of rents, reversing the outcomes of boundaries to will increase. But failure to modify the reward cap in response will have appreciably lessened any useful influence this may well have had. Amongst February and May possibly 2020 there was a in the vicinity of doubling of homes who experienced their advantage income lowered by the cap, disproportionately influencing solitary-parent households. LHA prices have when once again been frozen.

Relocating ahead

These conclusions guidance calls from housing organisations these as Shelter to increase the LHA back to the 50th percentile, and to after yet again boost allowances in line with rents. This would defend private renters from fiscal hardship in the limited phrase while a a lot more sustainable housing plan should really be the lengthier-time period intention. While this conflicts with government’s tactic of as soon as once more freezing LHA prices and lowering paying, a few arguments towards this sort of an method must be considered.

Firstly, the increased paying on renter assist displays govt conclusions extra than it does excessive or frivolous paying out by profit recipients. Continuous reductions in support for the social rented sector have led to a lot more individuals living in the personal sector, wherever rents, and consequently housing benefit fees, are greater.

Next, quite a few procedures to “improve” access to dwelling possession have, at good price tag, inflated housing price ranges and made accessing ownership extra challenging for renters. These policies profit large housebuilders, and individuals already in owner profession. Presented these impacts, assist for renters really should most likely not be the principal concentrate on of steps to decrease housing paying.

Finally, lessening LHA levels may have decreased authorities expending on housing, but its effects will have led to improves in shelling out in other places, specifically health. A person’s residence is central to their broader health and wellbeing – in an period where by lower housing quality has been directly linked to the spread of a lethal disease, housing policy must take this into account.