Local housing allowances are disproportionally affecting South Hams renters according to a recent report by Citizens Advice services and the University of Plymouth.

The report titled, ‘Sometimes I sit on the Sofa and Cry’, says that this is one of the damaging effects of central governments three year freeze in the benefit.

The Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is a housing benefit for tenants who are renting in the private sector. The LHA is calculated in areas across the country according to the average cost of private rent in a Broad Rental Market Area (BRMA).

In the South Hams, renters are currently in a BRMA with Plymouth and South East Cornwall. According to the published report, the average monthly rent of a two-bedroom house is £807 in Plymouth, £901 in the South Hams and over a thousand pounds in South East Cornwall. By being grouped in with Plymouth the average is skewed against renters in the South Hams. Based off these statistics, only 60% of rent each month in the South Hams is being covered renters LHA.

The report says that local people are struggling to keep up with soaring rent and the constant threat of eviction notices from landlords.

Janie Moor, Citizens Advice South Hams Chief Executive, said: “This report shows the urgent need for action as more and more people in our region face long waits in temporary accommodation or homelessness.

“We know that second homes and holiday lets are putting pressure on the private rental market just when food, fuel and energy inflation is putting unsustainable pressure on many people’s household incomes.”

Ken (name changed to protect identity) is a 67 year old pensioner who rents a one bedroom flat for £475 a month but only receives £200 a month of housing benefit: “I don’t have enough coming in to pay what’s going out. Rising bills, food – is one that’s hit me even harder…You know, I sit there on my sofa and cry. How have I got into this state?”

Ken has had to start using a local food bank to get by.

Citizens Advice South Hams are calling for the government to increase the LHA, redraw the borders of the BRMA, and create a rural BRMA for the South Hams.