Hundreds of housing association tenants escape welfare reform

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Hundreds of tenants have escaped the impact of welfare reform, but their housing association landlord warns the real problem may be how tenants are paying.

Mark Rogers, chief executive of Circle Housing, said 20 per cent of its tenants who were hit by the bedroom tax, and 40 per cent of those hit by the overall benefit cap, were no longer affected by the changes.

This was due to a combination of tenants finding work, downsizing, receiving discretionary housing payments, or taking a new person into the home, delegates at the Chartered Institute of Housing South East Conference in Brighton heard.

The 65,000-home landlord had 4,019 households affected by the bedroom tax in April, and 3,187 by December. The benefit cap affected 331 households in April and 152 in December.

Discretionary housing payments are temporary and do not remove tenants from the benefit changes.

‘Although it’s still early days, these figures indicate that the investment we have put into financial support, mobility and employment and skills is beginning to have an impact. For the first time we are seeing a link between investment in key services and changes in customer behaviour,’ Mr Rogers said.

The number of tenants paying their rent despite the benefit changes also increased – with 9 per cent of those hit by the bedroom tax failing to make up the reduction in benefit in December, compared with 25 per cent in the summer.

However, Mr Rogers said this might be ‘stocking up problems for the future’.

‘Anecdotally we know people are paying by going to food banks, using up the last of their savings, borrowing from their parents, or working under the radar of the economy. We are keeping an eye on that, because it could be stocking up problems for the future,’ he said.

‘We also know there are people sitting at home with the lights off, people asking us to cut off their gas to avoid utility bills and people not eating for one day to make ends meet.’