Most social housing tenants still unaware of welfare changes, CIH South West study reveals

Most social housing tenants still unaware of welfare changes, CIH South West study reveals

More than 80% of social housing tenants in the South West are still unaware of impending benefit changes, according to a joint survey carried out by CIH SW and the National Housing Federation.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – March 28, 2013 – (RealEstateRama) — The study also revealed that more than half of housing associations (56%) and almost a third of local authority landlords (30%) worry that their tenants still know hardly anything or nothing at all about benefit changes, despite activities to raise awareness.

Of all the reforms, social landlords expect the introduction of direct payments to tenants to have the biggest impact on the lives of residents and their organisations. 96% of housing associations and 100% of local authority landlords say a rise in the level of arrears is likely and a fall in total rental income will occur following introduction of direct payments to tenants

To counteract this social landlords are increasing support for tenants as well as increasing resources to manage the anticipated increase in arrears. Almost 80% are providing extra money advice and 64% of associations and all of the local authority landlords surveyed are undertaking customer analysis to target under-occupiers with help.

The study of 54% of housing associations, local authority landlords and arms-length management organisations that provide almost 162,000 homes in the South West also revealed that social landlords believe they will be significantly affected by the the-so called bedroom tax and the household benefit cap which will increase difficulty in rent collection.

Graham Hogg, CIH SW board member and one of the researchers on the study said: “If, as our survey suggests, rent arrears increase by as much as 50% that implies social landlords and tenants will be carrying the cost of welfare reform through reduced services. Even more alarming is the finding that more than 50% of housing association tenants have little knowledge of the changes. This would suggest that many affected tenants will not have been able to look for a smaller home or cut back household spending before the new rent bill comes through their letter box. It is therefore highly likely that in six months to a year’s time we will see increased evictions and homelessness across the region.

“The responses from councils suggest that more than 9% of council tenants are likely to find that they are due to pay more rent because their benefit is reduced as a result of the bedroom tax. The government has introduced the changes in the hope that tenants on benefits will move to a smaller home. However the supply of one and two bed homes falling vacant is likely to be far less than the numbers needed and tenants who have their benefit reduced may well face a long wait until a suitable home becomes available in their town or village. In the meantime they may well face a difficult choice between paying an increased rent bill, or other household expenses such as food and fuel.”

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