We are concerned that the Government’s proposed welfare reforms – specifically the introduction of the benefit cap in its current form – fails to take into account family composition, regional housing cost variation and the availability of accommodation to rent.
We believe that the cap at £500 per week will make it challenging to provide even modest sized family homes in high cost areas. In those areas where families are unable to meet their rent Local Authorities may seek to house them outside the area. Where this takes place we think it will result in a lack of tenure mix, residualisation and associated problems.
We believe that the reduction of housing benefit to those who are under occupying will put residents at risk of losing their home as many will struggle to move within the social sector. Research undertaken by Cambridge University indicated that there is likely to be a substantial shortage of smaller properties available for people wishing to downsize.
Around 60% of our households receive housing benefit and we estimate this change could impact on as many as 13% of our households. We believe that under-occupation in the social housing sector should be tackled but cutting housing benefit and pushing people into poverty is not the answer. Instead we advocate incentivising and supporting people to move to suitable accommodation.
We are currently identifying tenants who will be affected by the change, making them aware of their options and supporting them to downsize. We also provide a national mutual exchange service free to our residents and are participated in a London mobility pilot called “g15 London Moves” which may assist those needing to downsize.