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028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

LHA rates frozen at 2020/21 levels

In the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chancellor decided to realign Local Housing Allowance rates so that they accurately reflected the 30th percentile of local rents. This announcement was widely welcomed, although many organisations argued that LHA rates should never have been allowed to drift so far from real market rents and that a more supportive emergency measure would be to increase the rates to the 50th percentile of local rents. 

While other emergency social security changes were announced as temporary measures, no firm statement on the LHA rates was made. The Secretary for Work and Pensions eventually referred to the realignment as a permanent change. In the wake of the spending review, it became clear that the Government's intention was, however, to freeze LHA rates again. The documents accompanying the spending review made it clear that rates would remain at levels determined on 31 March 2020. 

The legislation enacting this new benefit freeze in Northern Ireland has now been passed. The Housing Benefit and Universal Credit Housing Costs (Executive Determinations) (Modification) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2021 provide that the local housing allowance rates remain those determined on 31 March 2020. The likely impact of this is further struggle for private renters, particularly when PropertyPal's analysis of the rental market in Northern Ireland shows that rents continue to rise, despite the economic turmoil many tenants are experiencing. 

Closure of Severe Disability Premium gateway

The Severe Disability Premium or SDP gateway, which prevented people whose benefits payment included a premium on account of a severe disability from claiming Universal Credit closed in January 2021. People who are receiving a severe disability premium in an existing legacy benefit claim will not have to claim Universal Credit if they have a relevant change in circumstances. 

A new claim for Housing Benefit can now only be made by

  • a single person of pension age
  • a couple where both parties are of pension age
  • any eligible person living in supported or exempt housing, (including temporary housing provided by the Housing Executive under its homelessness duties). 

Tagged In

Legislation, Private Tenancies, Affordability
This article was written on 4 February 2021. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.