Flattening housing benefit rates by reducing the number of ‘broad rental market areas’ (BRMAs) could significantly reduce housing benefit expenditure, particularly in London and the South East. There are over 150 BRMAs in England alone, and areas of high rent have disproportionately large numbers of housing benefit claimants. By determining rates over a wider rental market area, there would be lower benefit expenditure and less pressure in high-cost areas within regions.
Housing benefit rates should be flattened across the UK in order to reduce expenditure by 10 per cent. People who have to pay for their own housing frequently have to broaden their geographical sights to find somewhere suitable within their price range so it is not unreasonable for benefit claimants to be asked to do the same. Many of those who work in London are forced by high prices to look outside the city and commute. Housing benefit claimants should not be immune from this reality of life.
It was not possible to reliably estimate the effects of savings from a defined measure so we recommended that the Department for Work and Pensions investigates the data they have to estimate what extent of broadening could achieve a saving of at least 10 per cent of the housing benefit bill.