A Suffolk councillor has written to the Government warning that homelessness levels will rise unless there is an increase in housing benefits.

Cllr David Beavan, cabinet member for housing at East Suffolk Council, has called on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to raise Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates because of 'rapidly rising' private rents across most of the country.

The LHA rates are used to calculate housing benefit for tenants renting from private landlords and are based on private market rents being paid by tenants.

READ MORE: Hundreds of Ipswich households at risk of homelessness

One in three of all tenants receive help through benefits to meet their housing costs, but LHA rates have been frozen since April 2020 and therefore reflect rents in 2018-19 when fees were lower than at present.

Cllr Beavan said these LHA rates were no longer helping tenants on low incomes and there was now a shortfall between monthly rents and housing benefits that tenants could not bridge.

In the letter, he said: "These large shortfalls leave private renters at high risk of rent arrears and eviction.

"The reality is that those who cannot meet the shortfall will face homelessness - keeping to the current LHA rates will inevitably increase homelessness figures and street homelessness."

READ MORE: New scheme to help Suffolk tenants access lower rents

Cllr Beavan also revealed that Suffolk was the 13th most expensive county in the country and that the average rent had gone up by eight percent between September 2021 and September 2022.

He said the average rent in east Suffolk was £703 per month, with an average change of 11.9% in 2022.

Speaking to the EADT, Cllr Beavan said social housing rents were pitched at the same level as housing benefit, which made it very difficult for new housing to be built because the rents were so low and would not pay off the construction costs.

He added: "The whole housing market just does not work. It is not providing affordable housing that people can afford to pay."

READ MORE: Suffolk news

A spokesperson for the DWP said: “We’re helping to ease the pressure of rising rents and investing over £30 billion on housing support this year on top of record financial support worth around £3,300 per household.

“We’ve also maintained our £1 billion boost to the Local Housing Allowance while our discretionary housing payments provide a safety net for anyone struggling.

“But, the key is preventing homelessness before it occurs which is why we have given £2 billion over three years to help local authorities tackle homelessness and rough sleeping.”