The Hyde Group, a member of the g15 group of London’s largest housing associations, has submitted evidence to the Commons Select Committee inquiry into the implementation of welfare reform by local authorities.
Steve White, Group Chief Executive, appeared before the committee on 7 January.
In written evidence submitted by Hyde, which owns and manages circa 49,000 homes across London, South East and the East of England, the Group urged the Government to reconsider its timetable for implementing welfare reform to await the outcome of direct payment pilot projects. These will see social housing tenants made responsible for paying their own rent, through direct payment of benefits, rather than housing benefit going straight to landlords – a key part of the government’s flagship welfare reforms.
Acknowledging the significant challenge welfare reform presents to both housing associations and local authorities he stated:
- The level of awareness amongst residents claiming benefits of the plethora of reforms remains low – despite significant efforts from housing associations and suggested that the government need to do much more on this.
- The social housing sector is concerned that there is an inherent conflict between the work of the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Communities and Local Government – which will see social housing rents rise to up to 80 per cent of market rates in some areas whilst benefits are being capped at £500 per week.
- The combination of the benefit cap and the introduction of market pegged social rents poses a threat to the construction of new affordable family homes.
- Similarly, housing associations will face large costs from the implementation of welfare reform and this too will impact on their ability to build much needed new homes.
- A wider definition of vulnerability is needed for many of the reforms so that it includes health and non-health criteria.
Steve White, Group Chief Executive for The Hyde Group, said: “As a Group, Hyde has worked hard to prepare our residents for the potential impact of the welfare reforms. However, the size of the challenge should not be underestimated and we would urge caution in the face of potential confusion, uncertainty and the longer term impact of the changes planned.”