16 May, 2012
From 1 April 2013 housing benefit for working-age social housing tenants is due to be assessed in accordance with the new house size criteria. Any household assessed to be under-occupying their home will have a percentage of housing benefit deducted with 14% of housing benefit deducted for one spare room and up to 25% for two spare rooms. Children aged up to 9 will be expected to share with a sibling, whilst siblings of the same gender are expected to share between the ages of 10 - 15.
This move is touted by the government as seeking to address under-occupation. Steps have already been taken to tackle this issue with elderly tenants whereby incentives have been provided to move into smaller accommodation. However, benefit reduction is now being utilised to enforce moves into smaller accommodation for working age tenants.
There will inevitably be a number of tenants who seek to remain in their properties despite not being able to meet the weekly rent. This will in turn lead to an increase in possession proceedings. Similarly the impact of significant numbers of tenants requiring a move to the most popular sizes of house (i.e. 3 bedroom properties) means that social landlords will have to consider carefully how they will prioritise allocations. This will be particularly difficult in smaller and rural communities as tenants seek to remain close to their current place of residence. Landlords will need to ensure that they adhere to their allocations policy or move to update their policies accordingly.
For tenants who are facing particular difficulties social landlords can consider:
The ongoing difficulties social landlords face are set against a background of increasing poverty as reported by the recent Joseph Rowntree Foundation paper, "The impact of employment changes on poverty in 2020" which highlights the widening gap between well paid and low paid jobs.
Whilst the pressures on social landlords remain as great as ever, on this matter in particular they should start preparing now and looking ahead to what will be a difficult year.
For further information please contact Rebecca Asady on 01772 220022 or email Rebecca Asady