The effect of local housing allowance reductions on overcrowding in the private rented sector in England

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

June 1, 2022


Ensuring housing affordability while controlling government expenditure is a concern in many countries. In the UK support for private renters is delivered via an income-related housing benefit calculated using the Local Housing Allowance. As part of a programme to reduce government spending the support provided by the Local Housing Allowance was significantly reduced in 2011, and ongoing changes to its uprating have further reduced its value. These changes have raised concerns about the suitability of homes people receiving the allowance can afford. Using a natural experiment approach by applying matching and difference-in-difference methods to housing stock data from the English Housing Survey, this research finds a statistically significant 5% increase in overcrowding for housing benefit recipients following the changes to the Local Housing Allowance, equivalent to approximately 75,000 additional households living in overcrowded conditions. Longer-term results show that overcrowding continued to increase as changes to the uprating system further reduced the value of housing benefit. The decision to reduce the Local Housing Allowance and sever its relationship with actual rents has therefore reduced the ability of recipients to access suitable housing which will have had important implications for health and well-being, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Published in

International Journal of Housing Policy

Volume and page numbers

Volume: 22 , p.119 -137






Open Access

© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.



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