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Cost of private rents 'leaving many people on knife-edge', charity says

PUBLISHED: 05:30 09 May 2019 | UPDATED: 08:33 09 May 2019

People are being forced to decide between paying rent and paying for food as houses are becoming less affordable under Universal Credit Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

People are being forced to decide between paying rent and paying for food as houses are becoming less affordable under Universal Credit Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

A study by homelessness charity Crisis has shown that because of a persistent shortfall between the benefit and the true cost of renting, some areas in Suffolk are almost entirely unaffordable for people on Universal Credit.

The study comes as Ipswich MP Sandy Martin raised concerns in the House of Commons that Universal Credit waiting times are forcing some into poverty.

In Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds less than 1% of rented rooms in house shares are affordable for those under the age of 35 on Shared Accommodation rates, the section of Universal Credit allocated to rent.

Just 5% of one and two-bedroom rented houses were affordable for small families receiving Universal Credit in 2018/19.

A spokesman from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said: "We've made numerous improvements to Universal Credit - giving support to vulnerable people who need it most, while at the same time helping people get into work faster."

But Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: "We all deserve the dignity and stability that a safe and decent home provides.

"Yet the widening gulf between Universal Credit and private rents is leaving many living on a knife-edge.

"More and more people are forced to make impossible choices between keeping up with the rent and paying for essentials like food and bills."

A spokesman from Ipswich Borough Council, said: "The levels of some private rental properties are a challenge both to tenants on benefit and to the council, which is continuing to offer advice and help for people seeking more affordable housing."

Local Housing Allowance (LHA), which is administered under Universal Credit, is supposed to provide financial support to those on low incomes who are unable to meet housing costs.

Previously, LHA rates were set to ensure that recipients could afford at least 30% of properties in their area.

However in recent times, a freeze in LHA payments has been in place.

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