Friday, 01 August 2014

Majority of housing association staff say their tenants in arrears

Nearly three quarters of housing association staff say their tenants are falling behind on rent this year, with over a third reporting the bedroom tax as the main cause.

In a Unison survey published today, Community and Voluntary Services in the Age of Austerity, 73 per cent of housing association staff report their tenants were in rent arrears this year.

Thirty-five per cent reported the top reason was the bedroom tax, with the next common reasons being complex benefit changes, the rising cost of living and lack of employment.

The poll of 756 housing association workers between July and August showed half of staff had seen an increase in tenants being evicted or forced to move out due to financial pressures.

Thirty-seven per cent had seen a reduction in non-statutory services such as play schemes and community centres, with 43 per cent reporting a rise in anti-social behaviour from tenants.

Nearly 60 per cent of staff said they had seen more debt management advisors employed by their housing associations.

Unison’s report, to highlight the impact of the government’s austerity measures, said: ‘Austerity has reduced house building with a 63 per cent cut in capital financing available for new social housing. It has also affected many housing associations by reducing funding for the Supporting People programme for social care.

‘But the biggest impact has been the raft of welfare benefit changes, reducing rental income. The human side of this is an increase in problems facing vulnerable social housing tenants.

‘“Extra” facilities that make life decent – such as play schemes and community centres – are being cut, and partly as a result social problems are rising. Tenants are facing unemployment and underemployment, rising debts, and confusing and punitive welfare changes.

‘These all make it harder to keep up with the rent – often resulting in people being forced to leave their homes. And pressure on hard-pressed housing workers continues to build.’


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