Tagged: social housing tenants

New Research Debunks Social Housing Benefits Dependency Myth

New research published today debunks the myth that social housing residents are characterised by high levels of benefits dependency.

The latest Real London Lives research report, commissioned by the University of York, reveals that rather than being blighted by long-term unemployment and low aspiration, there is a strong commitment to work among social housing tenants, despite difficult circumstances and personal vulnerability.

Two-thirds of residents in social housing who can reasonably be expected to work do, however three-quarters were only ‘holding steady’ financially, due to low wages and a shortage of working hours.

Much like the experiences of other workers, jobs taken by social housing residents do not necessarily guarantee financial security and don’t always offer a steady wage.

Social housing tenancy is supporting people through many of the challenges they face in life, protecting and strengthening the family unit and insulating vulnerable people who may otherwise become homeless.

Social housing provides tenants with the opportunity to achieve independence from benefits, says the report.

The research also lays to rest the myth that migrants gain access to social housing easily. Contrary to common public perception, migrants have ‘no advantage in the allocation of housing’, say researchers. Indeed, the report found that access to social housing is anything but easy for all groups of applicants.

Research also reveals how the government’s controversial ‘bedroom tax’ housing policy is not incentivising tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit to downsize to a smaller property. 50% of residents who did wish to downsize to a smaller property said it wasn’t because of ‘bedroom tax’, but more to do with the home itself. Those who chose to stay put and accept the hit on their benefits did so because of a long-standing emotional attachment to their home.

Mark Rogers, CEO of Circle Housing and Deputy Chair of the g15, said:

The lazy stereotypes about social housing residents are simply wrong.  There are people in professional careers, people working part-time, people on zero hours contracts, some holding down two jobs, others in training, and some with no real prospect of employment due to physical or mental health problems.

“This research shows there are no easy answers for policy makers.  Social housing residents are not ‘shirkers’, but a diverse, complex mix of ordinary households trying to get by and thrive in the best way they can.

“Together, we must use this evidence to make informed policy decisions and have a collective responsibility to ensure that the voices of this diverse community of Londoners are heard.”

The report aims to achieve better understanding into the lives of Londoners living in social housing and their ‘financial resilience’ in the wake of welfare reform and a changing labour market.

Researchers surveyed 1,648 working-age social housing residents of the g15 group of housing associations.

Source –  Welfare Weekly,  19 Nov 2014

Bedroom tax crime fears

Crime chiefs say the so-called bedroom tax is driving people to ruthless loansharks and committing crime.

Cleveland and Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioners expressed growing concerns over the financial pressures the benefit cut is having on households.

They say it is leading to a rise in crimes like shoplifting and people buying on the black market and worry the benefit cut will drive people to illegal and ruthless money lenders.

> And nobody ever speculated that this would be a likely consequence ? What will they do when they catch on to the effects of  benefit sanctions !

It is after a recent interim Government report on the spare room subsidy.

It revealed that 59 per cent of social housing tenants hit by the bedroom tax nationally have been unable to meet their basic housing costs.

Crime commissioner for Cleveland Barry Coppinger said: “Bedroom tax leaves many in severe hardship and I’m concerned that some families will turn to volatile loan sharks as a short-term solution.

“The pressure increases when they can’t pay what they owe the unlicensed moneylender, particularly if a threat of violence is looming over them.”

He added: “Deep and relentless welfare reforms have a knock-on effect on other crimes, particularly shoplifting, as families turn to the black-market to buy food and other items they can’t afford in the shops.

“I would reiterate the importance of seeking trusted financial advice, accessing credit unions and asking to be referred to a foodbank. Foodbank locations in Cleveland are on the information section of my website.”

And Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg said he feared the problem will get worse with further planned welfare reforms.

Mr Hogg said: “We predicted that this tax would cause massive problems for some of the most vulnerable in our society.

“With more welfare reform yet to be implemented the situation will only get worse.

“Many in our communities will struggle to put food on the table or pay their utility bills.

“As these financial pressures grow we would encourage the use of credit unions and urge those affected to seek trusted financial advice.”

The bedroom tax came into force on April 1 last year and affects social housing tenants in employment and those in receipt of housing benefits if they have any unoccupied rooms.

Households under occupancy have their benefits cut by around £13 each week for one bedroom or £22 for two bedrooms.

In Hartlepool, 1,581 households have been affected with the average weekly loss of housing benefit of £13.67 a week and the annual value of housing benefit reductions in Hartlepool is £1.123m.

Source – Hartlepool Mail,  31 July 2014

Public Support For Axing ‘Bedroom Tax’ Has Never Been Higher

Nearly half of the British public are now opposed to the controversial ‘bedroom tax’, a poll by YouGov has revealed.

The  poll for The Sun found that 49% were opposed to the bedroom tax in July 2014, compared to 41% who still support the housing policy. This is in stark contradiction to March 2013, when 49% approved of cutting Housing Benefit for people under-occupying their social home and 38% disapproved.

Public support for the  tax has not been higher than 42% since November 2013, while opposition to the policy is now at its higher ever level, according to the poll.

 The poll comes after Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg announced a dramatic U-turn on his party’s earlier support for the  tax. He said his party would seek to overhaul the policy, if it is still in government after the 2015 general election, by only penalising social housing tenants who refuse a smaller property.

 Clegg would also seek to exempt sick and disabled people who need an extra bedroom.

> Well he says that now. Come the 2015 election, should he by some unexplainable cosmic oversight still find himself in power, it might well be a different story.

Ditto all the main parties. They’ll tell you what they think you want to hear, right up to the moment they’ve got your vote. Beyond that, there’s no guarantees.

His U-turn was slammed by Labour who accused him of “unbelievable hypocrisy”, after the party voted in favour of the bedroom tax and paved the way for its introduction. Without the support of  Clegg’s party the policy would have fallen at the first hurdle.

Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander (Lib Dem MP) yesterday apologised to social housing tenants who had been evicted from their homes after fallen behind on their rent, as a direct result of the tax.

Under changes to housing benefit, introduced by the tory-led coalition government as part of widespread welfare reforms, social housing tenants deemed to be under-occupying a property must downsize to a smaller property, or contribute to their rent through a deduction in the amount of Housing Benefit they receive. The exact deduction depends upon how many spare bedrooms an affected household has in their home: 14% for one spare bedroom or 25% for two or more.

A study by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), sneaked out during David Cameron’s cabinet reshuffle, revealed that 59% of families affected by the bedroom tax are in arrears with their rent and less than 5% were able to downsize to a smaller property.

Despite the apparent failure and hardship caused by the under-occupation penalty, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith MP, somehow managed to hold on to his job – to the shock and dismay of many of our readers.

However, this sharp rise in the number of people opposed to the bedroom tax  may at least give some of our readers hope that one day we will see the back of this hated housing policy.

YouGov surveyed 692 adults between 16-17 July 2014. The results were ‘weighted’ to provide an accurate picture (as possible) of wider public opinion.

 Source – Welfare News Service,  18 July 2014
http://welfarenewsservice.com/public-support-axing-bedroom-tax-never-higher/

Bedroom tax is a disaster, MPs warn Ministers amid Newcastle Council complaints

A Commons inquiry has backed warnings from Newcastle City Council that cuts to housing benefit are causing hardship for families with children and disabled people – while failing to free up housing stock.

MPs are warning that cuts in benefits paid to social housing tenants who are considered to have a spare bedroom has caused “severe financial hardship and distress to vulnerable groups”.

The policy, known by critics as the “bedroom tax”, was designed to free up larger properties for families who need them most by encouraging council or housing association tenants with spare rooms to downsize.

But the Commons Work and Pensions Committee – which has Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem members – highlighted warnings from Newcastle City Council that there simply aren’t enough smaller properties for people to move into.

The Committee published its findings after hearing evidence from a range of witnesses including Coun Joyce McCarty, Newcastle Council’s deputy leader.

The Government has published figures showing that the cost of paying housing benefit in the North East had fallen by £25m as a result of the reforms.

Housing benefit rules introduced last year allow tenants to have one bedroom for a single adult or couple, for any two children under 15 of the same gender and for any two children under nine of either gender.

Housing benefit is cut by 14% of the property’s assessed rent if they have one room deemed to be a spare bedroom and 25% if they have two.

In the North East, 50,000 households had their benefit cut, or 440 households for every 10,000 in the region – a higher proportion than any other part of the country.

MPs highlighted evidence from Newcastle, which told the inquiry that 3,233 of its tenants were on the waiting list for a one-bedroom property but only around 800 one-bedroom properties were becoming available each year, including bedsits.

Referring to the policy as the social sector size criteria (SSSC), the MPs said: “Newcastle City Council questioned whether the SSSC policy was likely to succeed in encouraging better use of social housing stock. It pointed out that in Newcastle overcrowding was not a significant issue”

“Coun McCarty made the point that the SSSC had actually led to very few overcrowded families being rehoused.”

They warned: “We understand the Government’s wish to use social housing stock more efficiently and to reduce overcrowding. However, the SSSC so far seems to be a blunt instrument for achieving this. In many areas there is insufficient smaller social housing stock to which affected tenants can move, meaning that they remain in housing deemed to be too large and pay the SSSC.”

But ministers said housing benefit reforms and the welfare cap – which means no household can receive more than £26,000 in benefits – were needed to manage soaring welfare spending, which grew by 50% in Britain in just 10 years and saw the housing benefit bill exceed £1bn in the North East alone.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith said: “It was absolutely necessary that we fixed the broken system which just a year ago allowed the taxpayer to cover the £1m daily cost of spare rooms in social housing.

“We have taken action to help the hundreds of thousands of people living in cramped, overcrowded accommodation and to control the spiralling housing benefit bill, as part of the Government’s long-term economic plan.”

“And all the stress, debt, homelessness and suicide  resulting from this policy is actually good for them, they thrive on it. I’ve got figures to prove it”,  he might have added…

Source – Newcastle Journal,  02 April 2014