By Mark Smulian
A controversial change to Housing Benefit will be brought in three months early, Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Freud announced earlier this week.
The lower rate for shared accommodation rent will now apply to single people aged between 25 and 35 from January 2012, instead of from April that year.
Some 88,000 people will be affected, according to the housing charity Shelter.
The lower rate has applied since 1996 to claimants aged under 25 and is designed to steer them into private sector shared houses and flats rather than more costly self-contained accommodation. The government announced in the October Spending Review that the rate would be extended to single people up to age of 35.
Freud said the January 2012 start date would bring the shared accommodation rate into line with the end of the transitional relief for those affected by changes to the local housing allowance.
"This will ensure that single people aged 25 to 34 reaching the end of their transitional protection period will experience at that point a single reduction in their Housing Benefit, rather than two separate reductions," he said.
The changes to the local housing allowance, which take effect next month, will cap payments according to how many bedrooms a home has.
Kay Boycott, director of policy and campaigns at Shelter, said the changes would mean thousands of young people "priced out of their homes and forced to search for shared accommodation which in many areas will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to find".
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