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6 December, 2021 Open access

Almost five million households claimed state support towards their rent in August 2021, up almost a fifth compared to before the Covid-19 outbreak

New analysis of DWP data from Shelter also shows that over the pandemic the number of private renters claiming support has increased by almost 40 per cent

Almost five million households were claiming housing benefit or the universal credit housing element to help pay their rent in August 2021, an increase of almost a fifth compared to before the Covid-19 outbreak.

In Shelter's new analysis of DWP data on households claiming state support for rent costs, a comparison of the most recent figures from August 2021 with statistics from before the pandemic in February 2020 shows that 4.92 million households claimed housing benefits (the housing element of universal credit or legacy housing benefit) in August 2021, an increase of 778,000 (19 per cent) on the claimant count before the pandemic.

Breaking the figures down further, Shelter finds that over the period of the Covid-19 outbreak -

With the data showing so many renters now claiming state support towards housing costs, Shelter urges government action to address the affordability crisis for renters from rising rents across England and the freezing of Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates at March 2020 levels until at least 2023 -

‘We risk sliding back towards the situation before the pandemic, when LHA failed to cover the cost of a modest home in 97 per cent of England. This will hamper efforts to prevent homelessness for families hit by the economic effects of the pandemic and rising cost of living.

The government must restore LHA to at least the 30th percentile of local rents and re-link LHA rates to the market to prevent shortfalls from opening up again.’

For more information, see Universal Credit Alert December 2021 from shelter.org.uk