I WRITE to support the call by Councillor Gill Williams for an increase in housing benefit levels.

I also disagree with your comment “Let’s be very careful” (Argus, October 21) in which you caution against any increase on the basis of the impact it might have on increasing rent levels.

The amount that housing benefit will pay is based on the Local Housing Allowance which was, originally, set at the 50th centile of rent charged in the private sector in a locality. This was subsequently reduced to the 30th centile as an austerity measure. George Osborne then froze the amount and this has been the situation that has prevailed for the last few years.

Mr Osborne’s measures have had a direct impact on people’s ability in Brighton and Hove to afford private sector accommodation. This has led to people living in poverty and, on occasions, becoming street homeless.

The logic of your Comment section is wrong. Had the restraint on LHA suppressed rents in the private rented sector, then there may be some merit in what you are arguing for. The reality is that rents have increased and increased and increased. There are a number of private landlords who will rent a property within LHA levels but they are reducing in number.

The research by the National Housing Federation indicates that 99 per cent of homes for rent are more expensive than the amount covered by housing benefit whereas 50 per cent of rents should have been, originally, below LHA levels and, subsequently, 30 per cent of rents should have been below.

Until such time as the Government tackles the housing crisis by a massive programme of council house building, coupled with the ending of the Right to Buy, the situation in areas like Brighton and Hove will just get worse.

Increasing housing benefit will not solve the housing crisis but, nevertheless, it is an essential measure if people are not to be driven further into poverty and with more people ending up on the streets.

Andy Winter, Chief Executive, Brighton Housing Office