TENANTS on benefits face a shortfall of hundreds of pounds every month if they want to rent private housing in Witney.

New figures from Citizens Advice West Oxfordshire show the average two-bedroom home in the Witney area now costs £1,212 per month - almost £450 more than the local housing allowance of £769.62.

Dozens of people told the charity they had difficulty finding suitable private housing in the district, with many saying their income or benefits did not cover their rent.

Meanwhile, some claim they were not considered potential tenants because they receive Universal Credit or housing benefit.

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James Boxall, a 28-year-old from Witney with hearing loss and co-ordination issues, has struggled to find suitable housing and claims the problem hits disabled people hardest.

He said: “Most people that have a disability are on benefits that won’t cover the rent and aren't enough to live on.

“By the time I paid my rent every month I wouldn’t be able to buy myself food. If we moved into a flat, what we are getting won’t cover our rent, bills and shopping."

Mr Boxall currently lives with his mum, but is looking for his own accommodation after turning down a shared house in Banbury.

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His problem is familiar to Citizens Advice, which spoke to more than 120 people in the district for its private rented housing survey, which ended last month.

The report heard from people affected by high rents, those having issues with landlords or letting agents or struggling to secure private housing on a low income.

About 30 people said the upfront charges or initial fees involved were unaffordable, roughly the same number who said their income or benefits did not cover their rent.

Research by the charity also showed just two per cent of properties in the district were affordable on the £769 housing allowance.

One respondent said: “You need to earn three times your salary to be able to rent a house in Oxfordshire so for anyone on an average wage this is out of reach. The problem is very real and is leaving people homeless."

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The charity is working with West Oxfordshire District Council, letting agents and landlords to make private housing more affordable.

The council has 'a number of projects' to help residents find accommodation and will hold its first private sector landlord forum next month. It is also set to recruit a private rented sector officer.

Alongside other local authorities, the council is considering offering a payment to help bridge the gap between the housing allowance and the cost of accommodation in the district.

Meera Chindooroy, policy and public affairs manager at the National Landlords Association, said landlords banning tenants receiving benefits was 'unfair'.

On Monday, the Prime Minister announced plans to stop private landlords evicting tenants at short notice and without good reason, while the Tenant Fees Act 2019 will help reduce the costs tenants face when it comes into force in June.