A report provided the results of a survey of housing associations on the early impacts of the introduction of the social sector size criteria (also known as the 'bedroom tax'), the benefit cap, and preparations for universal credit. The report said that 58 per cent of housing associations had been affected by the size criteria either a 'great deal' or a 'fair amount', but this varied by region. It said that an average of 9 per cent of general needs tenancies were affected by the size criteria and 17 per cent of affected tenancies housed someone with a disability. The report said that two-thirds of tenants affected were currently in arrears and, of these, three-quarters had seen their arrears increase since 1st April 2013. Over half (53 per cent) of associations reported an increased difficulty in rent collection because of the size criteria and 49 per cent had seen an increase in tenants looking to downsize to a smaller home. The report noted that one-third of associations with planned development programmes had either changed, or planned to change, their programme to give greater prominence to one and two bedroom properties. The survey also found that associations had a range of concerns for tenants as a result of the introduction of universal credit.
Source: Impact of Welfare Reforms on Housing Associations: Early effects and responses by landlords and tenants, Ipsos MORI
The regulator for social housing providers in England began consultation on proposals to introduce fees for registered housing providers to cover the cost of regulation, as provided for in the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008. The consultation would close on 21 March 2014.
Source: Charging Fees for Social Housing Regulation: A discussion paper, Homes and Communities Agency
A report evaluated 12 government-funded, local authority-led demonstration projects to test innovative and cost effective ways of supporting the mutual exchange of housing tenancies. It examined the effectiveness of different approaches taken by the demonstration projects, and outlined key learning points.
Source: Elaine Batty, Steve Green, Kesia Reeve, David Robinson, and Ian Wilson, Promoting Mobility Through Mutual Exchange: Learning lessons from the housing mobility demonstration projects, Department for Communities and Local Government
A report examined the operation of social lettings agencies in Wales, produced as part of the Welsh Local Government Association Private Rented Sector Improvement Project (funded by the Welsh government). It said that some agencies were run by local authorities or housing associations, and others were private or voluntary sector organizations. The report said that geographical coverage was uneven across the 22 local authorities, and there was a wide variety of schemes and funding arrangements. Most agencies and local authorities anticipated an increased demand for private rented sector properties as a result of benefit changes.
Source: Social Lettings Agencies in Wales, Welsh Local Government Association
A report examined the impact of welfare reforms on local government and housing associations in England, and the early indicators regarding the effectiveness and future challenges of the changes. It said that organizations had been proactive in addressing the impact, although some local authorities had not looked at the full range of available options and there was scope for more partnership working. The report said the full impact of the reforms was yet to be felt but there were early signs for concern, such as rising rent and council tax arrears and increasing homelessness. The effect of removing the spare room subsidy was not yet clear.
Source: Reaping the Benefits? First impressions of the impact of welfare reform, Grant Thornton
A report examined the consideration of poverty within the strategies, policies, and business plans of local authorities, housing associations, and private landlords, and the role of housing providers in reducing poverty. It said that policy focused on issues such as social exclusion and tenure residualization, rather than the interactions between housing and poverty, and there was little evidence available on explicit anti-poverty strategies. It noted the tensions for housing associations in balancing their commercial aims with their more traditional social goals and said that 'affordable rents' were likely to increase the poverty of some tenants.
Source: Anna Clarke, Sam Morris, Chihiro Udagawa, and Peter Williams, The Role of Housing Organisations in Reducing Poverty: A review of strategic and business plans, Joseph Rowntree Foundation
A government department published new statutory guidance for social housing allocations, supplemental to existing guidance issued in June 2012. The new guidance would require housing providers to ensure that applicants had a local connection of at least 2 years' duration. It also clarified the eligibility of members of the armed forces, and encouraged the publication of local allocations outcomes.
Source: Providing Social Housing for Local People: Statutory guidance on social housing allocations for local authorities in England, Department for Communities and Local Government
A study examined the impact of welfare reform on housing employees. The report said that: 77 per cent of respondents thought customer interactions had become more challenging and 42 per cent felt only slightly/moderately equipped to cope with the increased challenge; 90 per cent reported customers to be in more financial difficulty than six months ago; 58 per cent had found increased mental health issues among their customer base; and 45 per cent had experienced customers making suicide threats. More than half of respondents (55 per cent) reported feeling stressed at work. The report made recommendations for consideration by employers.
Source: Impact of Welfare Reform on Housing Employees, Straightforward
A report examined the costs to housing associations in Scotland of the the removal of the spare room subsidy (also known as the 'bedroom tax'). It said that their modelling estimated the total costs over first three years to be £79 million. The report called on the United Kingdom government to repeal the measure, and for the Scottish government to help mitigate the impact.
Source: The Real Cost of the Bedroom Tax for Scottish Housing Associations and Co-operatives, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations
An article examined the right of social landlords in England (under the Localism Act 2011) to award fixed-term (flexible) tenancies, thereby ending the right of new tenants to a secure tenancy. Reform had been justified by the idea that security of tenure promoted dependency, undercut social mobility, and prevented the effective operation of the sector as a welfare service, but interviews with social tenants showed that security of tenure was a source of stability that helped to mediate the precariousness of life on low incomes. It said that policy-makers should be looking to extend, rather than curtail, these benefits through an improved rental housing 'offer'.
Source: David Robinson and Aimee Walshaw, 'Security of tenure in social housing in England', Social Policy and Society, Volume 13 Issue 1
The Northern Ireland Executive launched a public consultation to gather views on the outcomes of research into social housing allocations. The research had been commissioned as part of an ongoing review and there would now be three public events to discuss the findings before the consultation would close on 4 March 2014.
Source: Northern Ireland Executive
Report 1: Paddy Gray, Michaela Keenan, Ursula McAnulty, Anna Clarke, Sarah Monk, and Connie Tang, Research to Inform a Fundamental Review of Social Housing Allocations Policy – Report 1: Current approaches to accessing and allocating social housing in Northern Ireland, University of Ulster/University of Cambridge
Report 2: Paddy Gray, Michaela Keenan, Ursula McAnulty, Anna Clarke, Sarah Monk, and Connie Tang, Research to Inform a Fundamental Review of Social Housing Allocations Policy – Report 2: Best practice approaches to accessing and allocating social housing in Britain and the Republic of Ireland, University of Ulster/University of Cambridge
Report 3: Paddy Gray, Michaela Keenan, Ursula McAnulty, Anna Clarke, Sarah Monk, and Connie Tang, Research to Inform a Fundamental Review of Social Housing Allocations Policy – Final Report: Conclusions and recommendations, University of Ulster/University of Cambridge