A think-tank report examined the lives of London's modest earners (defined as those earning below average levels, but above the level at which they became entitled to benefits). It said that around one in five households in the city fell into this category, often working in essential jobs but increasingly finding it difficult to remain, owing to the cost of living. The report drew on examples from other countries, and concluded that there was a need to improve living conditions for this group through increasing incomes, reducing the cost of living for households earning between £20,000 and £43,000 (in areas such as housing costs, transport, and childcare), and creating social improvement districts to co-ordinate efforts. A second report provided findings from quantitative analysis that had informed the main report.
Source: Charles Leadbeater, Brell Wilson, and Margarethe Theseira, Hollow Promise: How London fails people on modest incomes and what should be done about it, Centre for London
Source: Margarethe Theseira, Changing Income and Spending Behaviours of London Households, Centre for London
A report provided a snapshot of rural policy in the United Kingdom. It said that there was greater diversity in the rural economy than was reflected in policy and called for rural growth policy to look beyond its focus on the more traditional rural sectors (such as farming, forestry, and food) and for rural business needs to be reflected in the work of local enterprise partnerships and combined authorities. The report also considered the need for policy to reflect a range of social issues, including poverty and social exclusion, an ageing demographic, housing affordability, and transport.
Source: Reimagining the Rural: What's missing in UK rural policy?, Centre for Rural Economy (University of Newcastle)
A report examined the range of government support available to help families to access suitable housing and avoid homelessness in the United Kingdom (the housing 'safety net'). It said that existing provision missed many households that were in need, with 3.4 million households at risk of falling through the safety net (having low-income and high relative housing costs), and one in ten having sold possessions to meet their housing costs. Overall, the report concluded that policy based on incentivization (such as the approach to housing benefit) could not work within the existing United Kingdom labour and housing markets, and it might be more effective to insure housing costs against loss of income for a period of about six months. It said that policy could be informed by international comparative research in related areas.
Source: Donald Houston, Darja Reuschke, Albert Sabater, Keith Maynard, and Norman Stewart, Gaps in the Housing Safety Net, University of St Andrews
A report examined the cost of student accommodation in the United Kingdom. It said that, even for the cheapest university or private sector accommodation available, students needed to spend high proportions of their loan and grant on their accommodation. It called on governments and universities to work towards making accommodation more affordable (including making a proportion of new university accommodation affordable), to make the cost of accommodation more clear and give better information about London weightings, and to support students' financial management capability.
Source: Set Up to Fail? The reality of money management at university, The Money Charity
A think-tank report said that almost 1.6 million United Kingdom households spent more than half their disposable income on the ongoing costs of housing each month, of which 990,000 were working households, and 84 per cent had incomes below the national median. The report said that these 'housing pinched' households were more likely to rent privately, be young, live alone, live in one bedroom properties, have recently moved, and live in London. It said that house price growth, expected future interest rate increases, and slow income growth would contribute to future increases in the proportion of housing expenditure by households.
Source: Laura Gardiner, Housing Pinched: Understanding which households spend the most on housing costs, Resolution Foundation
A report examined reasons for adult young people living at home with their parents and the areas in which this was most prevalent. It said that one-quarter of 20 to 34-year-old working adults in England were living with their parents, and a lack of affordable housing was the most common reason.
Source: The Clipped Wing Generation: Analysis of adults living at home with their parents, Shelter
A report provided early findings from the evaluation of the removal of the spare room subsidy from housing benefits claims (RSRS, commonly referred to as the 'bedroom tax'). It said that, at the time of the research, four out of five claimants affected by the RSRS were reported to be paying some or all of their shortfall, although half of these had not paid in full. Although to date there had been very few evictions solely as a result of the RSRS, the report said there was widespread concern about the impact of potential future evictions. It said that the demand for downsizing had been greater than anticipated, and had been difficult to meet in many areas. The evaluation was ongoing, with further fieldwork to be conducted later in 2014 and a final report due in 2015.
Source: Anna Clarke, Lewis Hill, Ben Marshall, Sarah Monk, Isabella Pereira, Eleanor Thomson, Christine Whitehead, and Peter Williams, Evaluation of Removal of the Spare Room Subsidy: Interim report, Research Report 882, Department for Work and Pensions
A series of reports provided findings to date from the evaluation of the Direct Payment Demonstration Projects (DPDPs) that were established in six local authority areas in 2012 to test the direct payment of housing benefit to tenants living in social housing, ahead of the switch to universal credit. The reports examined: the main findings from all the strands of research and analysis at the 12 month stage; rent 'underpayment' in DPDP; a 12 months' rent account analysis exercise; and a stage 2 survey of tenants. A fifth report provided an overview of the four main reports. Findings included: that arrears had initially risen following introduction of direct payments, but payment rates had improved over the 12 months (although arrears had not been cleared); payment patterns were more complex than simply 'payers' and 'non-payers', such that it was difficult to forecast accurately who would and would not manage on direct payments (this was said to be a key point on which further learning was needed); underpayment was more frequent than non-payment; local relationships between the housing benefit administrator (local authorities) and social housing landlords were key to the success of DPDP (and this relationship would needed to be replicated between the Department for Work and Pensions and landlords once universal credit took over responsibility for housing-related payments, requiring some form of data sharing); and that most DPDP tenants had not received support or advice regarding the switch to direct payments (for a variety of reasons), but there was evidence to suggest that support did benefit those who had received it.
Source: Paul Hickman, Kesia Reeve, and Stephen Green, Direct Payment Demonstration Projects: 12 months in extended learning report, Research Report 876, Department for Work and Pensions
Source: Paul Hickman, Kesia Reeve, Ian Wilson, Stephen Green, and Peter Kemp, Direct Payment Demonstration Projects: Rent underpayment, Research Report 877, Department for Work and Pensions
Source: Peter Kemp, Direct Payment Demonstration Projects: Report from the stage 2 survey of tenants, Research Report 878, Department for Work and Pensions
Source: Kesia Reeve, Ian Wilson, Paul Hickman, and Chris Dayson, Direct Payment Demonstration Projects: Key findings of the 12-months' rent account analysis exercise, Research Report 879, Department for Work and Pensions
Source: Paul Hickman, Kesia Reeve, Ian Wilson, Stephen Green, Chris Dayson, and Peter Kemp, Direct Payment Demonstration Projects: 12 month stage reports, Department for Work and Pensions
The government published a range of final reports evaluating the impact of changes to the local housing allowance (LHA) system of housing benefit from April 2011. The second wave of the primary research with landlords and tenants had been completed in spring 2013, at which time the LHA measures had only just started to affect all claimants and the impact of the measures on some claimants would also have been reduced by the temporary support provided by discretionary housing payments. The summary report therefore noted that some lagged effects would continue to emerge and that it would become increasingly difficult over time to attribute any changes to the LHA reforms, as opposed to other welfare reform measures or broader changes in the housing market.
Source: Christina Beatty, Ian Cole, Ryan Powell, Peter Kemp, Mike Brewer, James Browne, Carl Emmerson, Andrew Hood, and Robert Joyce, The Impact of Recent Reforms to Local Housing Allowances: Summary of key findings, Research Report 874, Department for Work and Pensions
A report examined the role of the welfare state and considered the need to increase support for the housing safety net in England.
Source: Kate Webb, Winning Support for a Stronger Safety Net, Shelter
A paper presented findings on the impact of the cost of living on families in Northern Ireland, drawn from the Communities in Action (CiA) Programme, a community-led research project with eight working class communities across the country. Key findings included: that increases in the cost of living made even essential items unaffordable for some people; that fuel and heating costs were of greatest concern in all participating communities; that changes to the social security system were beginning to make an impact on some of the most vulnerable participants; that people were struggling to meet their housing costs, whether for rent or mortgage payments, with some having lost their homes and others under threat; and that many people felt they were losing any security they had built up in recent years.
Source: Gabi Kent, Hard Times 1: The high cost of living, Community Foundation for Northern Ireland
A report examined the impacts of welfare reform on families in London, focusing on four key policy changes: the introduction of caps to the local housing allowance; the benefit cap; the under-occupation penalty (commonly referred to as the 'bedroom tax'); and the replacement of council tax benefit with local council tax reduction schemes. Housing costs, housing supply, childcare costs, and low pay were said to be key concerns, and the report made a range of policy recommendations.
Source: Megan Jarvie, Families on the Brink: Welfare reform in London, Child Poverty Action Group
A report examined the affordability of owner occupied housing in England, drawing on an analysis of properties for sale that were advertised on an online property site on one day in April 2014. It said that affordability problems were found across the country, with less than 10 per cent of available properties being affordable to a working couple with children on average wages in more than half (59 per cent) of local authority areas, and 14 local authority areas where there were no such affordable properties. The report also said that, in four fifths (85 per cent) of local authority areas, fewer than one in ten available properties were affordable to a single person on average wages, with 13 local authority areas having no such affordable properties. London and the south east were shown to be particularly affected.
Source: Tristan Carlyon, How Much of the Housing Market Is Affordable? Analysis of homes for sale, Shelter
A report provided the findings from a survey of social housing tenants regarding the impact of the social sector size criteria (commonly referred to as the 'bedroom tax'). The respondents were all general needs tenants of working age. The report said that: nearly one-third (32 per cent) of people affected by the bedroom tax said they had cut back on food; more than one-quarter (26 per cent) had reduced spending on heating; almost half (46 per cent) of those affected had needed to borrow money to help pay their rent since the introduction of the measure; and there were wide concerns about future ability to pay rent and other bills, and even about potential eviction. Of those affected, one in five respondents said that they were currently looking to move home.
Source: National Housing Federation, One Year On: The impact of welfare reforms on housing association tenants, Ipsos MORI
A report provided findings from a study into the legal process of housing possession in England and Wales, with particular focus on the ability of court users to supply information to the court, and to obtain advice and representation on the day of the possession hearing. It said that there was a lack of 'joined up thinking' within the legal process, such that potentially relevant and important information about the defendant's circumstances might not be known to the judge. The study had found that the rates of participation in the proceedings by defendants were low, but their involvement was likely to lead to a more beneficial outcome. Legal advice and representation was important to outcomes, but the report said that few defendants received legal advice prior to the hearing, and legal aid and voluntary advice service cuts would make this more difficult. The report called for a range of measures to improve outcomes, including for better flows of information between defendants and courts, funding for housing possession schemes to provide legal advice in courts, for better data on defendant attendance and representation levels, and for a central database of court-based legal advice.
Source: Susan Bright and Lisa Whitehouse, Information, Advice and Representation in Housing Possession Cases, University of Oxford/University of Hull
A report by a committee of MPs said that the Scottish Government should make a clear commitment to using discretionary housing payments to mitigate all the financial impact of the removal of the spare room subsidy (often referred to as the 'bedroom tax') on tenants in Scotland. It called on both the United Kingdom and Scottish Governments to expedite the necessary procedures that would enable the Scottish Government to remove the cap on DHPs in Scotland as quickly as possible.
Source: The Impact of the Bedroom Tax in Scotland: Devolving the DHP cap, Fourteenth Report (Session 201314), HC 1292, House of Commons Scottish Affairs Select Committee, TSO
A report examined data from six housing associations in central/southern England relating to the impact of the reduction of the spare room subsidy (commonly referred to as the 'bedroom tax'). It said that, although some tenants had moved or found work to avoid the bedroom tax, most (70 per cent) remained affected by the policy. Issues raised in the report included: that a shortage of smaller homes prevented people from downsizing; that higher demand for smaller properties meant that, in some areas, housing associations let larger houses to families who might still under-occupy them but who were not in receipt of housing benefit; that there appeared to be inconsistency in the assessment of entitlement for discretionary housing payments; and that the numbers of tenants with rent arrears (42.5 per cent) indicated that many were struggling financially. The report was the third in a series of reports on the impact of the policy.
Source: Here and There: One year on – the bedroom tax hits home, Grand Union Housing Group
A report examined how housing associations in England had responded to changes in the provision and administration of benefits since April 2013. Building on work outlined in an earlier report, it said that strategic responses had included measures such as amending policies and practices, reviewing development plans, and mobilizing staff from across different departments. It said that, overall, associations thought they and their tenants were managing the impacts effectively, particularly the size criteria (bedroom tax) and the benefit cap, but the imposition of jobseekers allowance sanctions was a rising issue and the implementation and administration of discretionary housing payments was inconsistent. Tenants' responses to the size criteria had mostly been to remain in their homes and pay the increased proportion of rent, but finding full-time work was reported to be difficult. The impact on associations was greatest for those with concentrations of larger homes in lower demand areas. Associations thought they would be able to manage existing arrears levels if no further problems arose. However, they reported that some tenants were faced with an accumulation of changes including the bedroom tax, the changes in council tax benefit, and rising utility costs. The roll out of universal credit and, in particular, direct payments to tenants was thought to be likely to increase difficulties for landlords and tenants.
Source: Peter Williams, Anna Clarke, and Christine Whitehead, Housing Associations And Welfare Reform: Facing up to the realities, Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research (University of Cambridge)
A report examined the impact of welfare reforms to date on housing in London. It said that housing costs in the city had led to increased numbers of housing benefit claims in recent years, especially for private tenants. The report said that there was some evidence that landlords were increasingly cautious in renting to tenants on housing benefit, and there had been increases in the early termination of assured shorthold tenancies, levels of statutory homelessness, and the use of temporary accommodation. It said that the reforms were changing the composition of local communities, with some evidence of claimant household movements within individual boroughs and, in particular, to Outer London, as well as increasing concentration of housing benefit claimants in particular areas. It discussed the transitional funding arrangements (discretionary housing payments) and made recommendations, including for the regular review of additional support mechanisms in the context of the changing housing market in London.
Source: Assessing the Consequences of Welfare Reform, Greater London Authority
A report by a committee of MPs examined the government's reforms to the available support for housing costs. It said that, although the government had made efforts to reduce the impact of the reforms on vulnerable groups, the committee remained concerned that some vulnerable households were suffering hardship because they could not respond to the reforms by changing their circumstances. It pointed to a number of impacts and recommended that the government should: monitor the impact on homelessness, and look at further ways of supporting claimants and local authorities if the reforms were found to be exacerbating it; take steps to mitigate the impact of the social sector size criteria (also referred to as the 'bedroom tax' or 'spare room subsidy') on people with disabilities, and, in particular, to exempt those living in significantly adapted homes and those receiving higher rate disability-related benefits; exempt all those on carers allowance resident in the same house as the person cared for, and all households in temporary accommodation, from the benefits cap; give local authorities more specific guidance on allocating discretionary housing payments, and review DHP provision to ensure long-term support where needed; commission research into the impact of council tax reduction schemes on levels of poverty in different areas; and give vulnerable claimants the option of having their housing costs support paid direct to their landlords.
Source: Support for Housing Costs in the Reformed Welfare System, Fourth Report (Session 201314), HC 720, House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee, TSO
A report by a committee of MPs said that it remained in favour of abolishing the spare room subsidy (commonly referred to as the 'bedroom tax') and, in the meantime, remained in favour of mitigating the effect of the tax through changes proposed in its earlier report. However, it said that the committee disagreed with the use of discretionary housing payments to mitigate the impact in Scotland, since it was ineffective in reaching difficult-to-access groups. The report called on the Scottish government to rethink its plans for 2014-15, and to mitigate the impact for 2013-14 by writing off arrears and refunding payments that had been made by tenants. The report incorporated the government's response to the committee's earlier report on this topic, which reaffirmed the government's commitment to removing the spare room subsidy.
Source: The Impact of the Bedroom Tax in Scotland: Plan B – charges, arrears and refunds; incorporating the Government Response to the Committeeï¿½s Fourth Report of Session 2013-14, Ninth Report (Session 201314), HC 937, House of Commons Scottish Affairs Select Committee, TSO
A report called for a range of policy interventions to increase the supply of affordable housing. Proposals included: a National Housing Investment Bank; for affordable housing to be reclassified as 'infrastructure' in the national accounts (to remove it from inclusion in the public sector borrowing requirement); clearer linkage of rents with household income; and for Local Housing Companies to be created in some areas (to oversee a range of related areas, spanning local authority boundaries).
Source: Mike De'Ath, Making a Place for Low Cost Housing, Housing Forum
A survey of private sector tenants in Britain found that more than half (52 per cent) said their biggest problem as renters was the existing cost of rent, with 39 per cent of respondents saying that rent levels caused them to limit heating their property, and 33 per cent saying that they cut back on food. The survey found that one in three (33 per cent) said they lived in properties with unacceptable dampness.
A new book examined housing in Britain and its role within the economy, arguing that housing was both at the heart of the recent financial crisis, and central to a precarious economic recovery. The book said that building more homes would not resolve the crises of homelessness and affordability, and that efforts should be made instead to address inequality.
Source: Danny Dorling, All that is Solid: The great housing disaster, Allen Lane
A report evaluated recent changes to Local Housing Allowances (LHAs) and Housing Benefit (HB) in the private rented sector (PRS) in Northern Ireland. It said that, overall, the effects had been 'fairly muted', with no evidence found of large scale tenant displacement or of landlords leaving the LHA submarket. However, it said the LHA measures had changed the attitudes of landlords towards letting to single people under 35, there were increased negotiations over rents with both existing and prospective tenants, more landlords reported increased rent arrears, and tenants reported growing pressure on their household budgets. The report said that the LHA measures had only just begun to take full effect at the time of the second wave of the research, and that the changes would have ongoing consequences which, as further welfare reforms evolved, would mean ongoing affordability problems for many low income households in the PRS.
Source: Christina Beatty, Ian Cole, Stephen Green, Peter Kemp, Ryan Powell, and Elizabeth Sanderson, Monitoring the Impact of Recent Measures Affecting Housing Benefit and Local Housing Allowances in the Private Rented Sector in Northern Ireland: Final report, Centre for Regional, Economic and Social Research (Sheffield Hallam University)
A report examined the use of the discretionary housing payment (DHP) budget in Scotland. The DHP was intended to mitigate the impact of welfare reform by providing short-term help with housing costs, and the Scottish Government had made an additional £20 million of funding available to local authorities in October 2013. The report said that the level of spending in each local authority had been varied but, by the end of 2013, eight had spent less than 30 per cent of the allocated funds. It called on local authorities to: take action to allocate funds; to review all earlier DHP applications in light of the additional funding; to publish DHP policies and eligibility criteria; and to promote the fund to potential applicants and advice agencies.
Source: Monitoring the Use of Discretionary Housing Payments in Scotland, Shelter Scotland
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
An article examined the relationship between income inequality and access to housing for low-income home-owners and renters 'at market rent' across Europe. Higher income inequality increased the likelihood of affordability problems for low-income renters. There was a positive relation between inequality and crowding. Higher income inequality was associated with lower housing quality.
Source: Caroline Dewilde and Bram Lancee, 'Income inequality and access to housing in Europe', European Sociological Review, Volume 29 Number 6
A report examined the long-term outcomes and well-being of vulnerable homeless households resettled into the private rented sector (PRS) in three locations in England (Greater Manchester, East Sussex and East London). It said that people's hopes for stability, safety, comfort, and warmth were not met in the majority of cases, with many properties having quality or safety issues. PRS tenancies were seen as expensive and the report said that people struggled to meet living costs, including those for energy and food. The report made recommendations for better support and funding, for longer tenancies in more suitable properties, and for local and national frameworks to address issues of quality and safety, and problem landlords.
Source: Mary Smith, Francesca Albanese, and Jenna Truder, A Roof Over My Head: The final report of the Sustain project, a longitudinal study of housing outcomes and wellbeing in private rented accommodation, Crisis/Shelter
A report by a committee of MSPs said that the under-occupancy charge (also known as the 'spare room subsidy' and the 'bedroom tax') was inhumane, was having a harmful effect on people's lives, and might breach tenants' human rights. It welcomed the additional funding provided by the Scottish government for discretionary housing payments, and appealed to them to explore further ways to mitigate the impact in the short term. It recommended that the United Kingdom government should abolish the under-occupancy charge, or give the required powers to the Scottish parliament.
Source: Interim Report on the 'Bedroom Tax', 1st Report 2014, SP Paper 459, Scottish Parliament Welfare Reform Committee
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