Bedroom Tax will put pressure on social landlords as well as tenants, says regional meeting – #NWSocialHousing

The North West Insider business magazine organised “The Business of Social Housing”, a well-attended event yesterday (26 March) at Salford City Stadium. Attended by directors and senior managers of housing associations across the region, there was a shared concern on the issues of Welfare Reform. The new Bedroom Tax is the immediate concern, closely followed by the new Universal Credit pathfinder pilots which start in the region from 28 April.
Housing associations are already bracing themselves for an increase in arrears, and local authorities are expecting more homeless families to seek their help, at a time when access to Legal Aid is also being further restricted. The social rented housing stock in the St Helens area is 60% 3-bedroom homes, so the local impact of the Bedroom Tax will be very high.
In reflecting on these changes, there was a general sentiment from the speakers that the government had ‘given up’ on strategy and was just focused on cuts without a thought to consequences. The example was given of a tenant who uses a room for medical equipment for home care. Having to give up the room will cause her to use hospital services again, saving Housing Benefit a little to cost the NHS a lot, never mind her quality of life and talk of community based healthcare. Yes, there is a discretionary fund, but most commentators insist it will not be enough to reduce hardship. The overwhelming concensus was that the Bedroom Tax was a ‘London issue’ being crudely applied across the UK. Consequently, Moodys has downgraded the credit rating of the UK social housing sector and it is now on notice with a ‘negative watch’. Which will increase the cost of borrowing for housing associations, another example of narrow-view cuts in one area which lead to further costs to others.
Private renting has grown massively in recent years, partly due to problems in getting mortgages after the credit crunch and partly because social housing providers are being pushed away from public sector grants towards private sector finance. More soon.

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