A report has shown the government’s welfare reform is costing a housing association £10m a year.
The report comes from Wakefield and District Housing which shows their story of the first 200 days of the under-occupation penalty. It shows that over 500 of their tenants who were not in debt before the introduction of the bedroom tax now owe rent.
The reports highlights how rent arrears and the number of people facing financial hardship and potential eviction has increased. This has meant the housing association have had to support their tenants through the use of Discretionary Housing Payments and services such as food parcels.
Within the report are case studies of tenants affected by the welfare reform and documents the intensive support provided by a range of the association’s employees. Included in this us health inequality caseworks, community employment advisors, central debt team, welfare reform team, and housing officer; reports 24dash.
Chief executive of Wakefield and District Housing said: “The so-called ‘bedroom tax’ is unfair, unjust and unworkable, and our findings over the first 200 days demonstrate the amount of unnecessary upheaval and distress caused to people within our communities. The only reason the situation is not worse is because of the intensive support our employees have provided to our tenants. However, many social landlords may find it difficult to provide such support over the long-term. The impact of welfare reform raises real questions about the role of social landlords in the future. The Government expect us to go beyond rent and repairs by improving tenants’ overall quality of life, yet threaten the income we have to do this.”
The report also shows that the cost of the welfare reform to the association is £10m a year, which is the equivalent of building a new property each week. Alongside this 500 tenants have now found themselves in rent arrears and nearly 4,000 tenants are under-occupying by one bedroom.
The report concludes: “Stock transfer has seen social landlords become a victim of their own success. We promise more, we deliver more, and now many people – particularly the government – expect more. Yet we’re expected to deliver with reduced resources and capacity. Councils, police forces and hospitals have had to bite the bullet and reduce the services they provide. So the question is: Should we go back to basics? Should we be aiming to make a positive difference to the lives of our tenants, or go back to the ‘good old days’ of rent and repairs? As social landlords, we have a duty to go the extra mile for our tenants, and we will continue to do so. In the meantime, we will be challenging the government to develop a fairer solution to the ‘bedroom tax’ which doesn’t penalise too harshly the many families and disabled people whose lives have been turned upside down. We believe there is a better way forward and we would be happy to share our ideas.”
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