A survey of social landlords by Housing e-Academy, shows that housing associations are just as concerned about funding as they are about welfare reform, with some respondents even questioning the viability of the social housing sector in the future.
Online PR News – 08-April-2013 – England: – Chloe Weatherhead, Head of Housing e-Academy, said: “We anticipated universal credit to be a major concern, however, it was surprising to see how many respondents gave funding and finance almost an equal billing.”
In the short term 30% of people cited universal credit and benefit changes as the main issue, 37.5% specifically identified residents’ ability to pay their rent, while 25% said funding and finance was their main worry. Even in the longer term, five years from now, universal credit and funding and finance are still the areas causing most concern.
57% said the lack of clarity around funding has meant a reduction in the number of new homes being built - though 80% are still building new properties. The majority said their current housing stock was at full capacity and 65% believe they cannot meet current and future demand.
When asked how concerned they were about universal credit, 99% of respondents said ‘very’, and of these, half said it was because of the impact it may have on rent payments. In order to help mitigate these concerns 45% were using staff to provide welfare advice to their tenants while 27% had used various marketing techniques to inform tenants.
99% agreed that the sector was going to have to take on new responsibilities and 99% said those responsibilities were around providing an advice service on welfare, budgeting and debt.
Chloe adds: “The conclusion to the survey is that universal credit (particularly the impact on rent payments) is going to be a problem for the sector. In addition, the uncertainly around the future of funding and finance could place even more pressure on social landlords. In the meantime, businesses are having to re-train staff in order to provide a comprehensive debt and welfare advice service.
“With the changes set to start this week there is no doubt that the social housing sector is facing some of its biggest challenges in its history. Whether or not we can meet them is a different story. One respondent asks: ‘Is there a future for social housing providers in the next 5 years?’, while another warns: ‘We won't be a social housing provider in its broadest term any more.”