One year since the introduction of the government's 'bedroom
tax', a new survey by three national council housing organisations
has discovered a growing north-south divide as residents in the
North of England are continuing to be hit the hardest by welfare
The survey found that tenants in the North of England are more
likely to be affected by the under-occupation penalty (13% compared
to 5% in London) and also to be in rent arrears (7% compared to 2%
in the capital).
Although nationally the percentage of households in rent arrears
and the percentage of tenants affected by the under-occupation
penalty and in arrears are falling, the North of England is
experiencing worse outcomes compared to other regions.
The findings are the result of a joint research project from the
National Federation of ALMOs (NFA), the Association of Retained
Council Housing (ARCH) and the Councils with ALMOs Group (CWAG),
into the impact of welfare reforms on council tenants. Together the
three housing bodies represent over 1.3m council properties.
The survey also found that over the course of 2013/2014 the
proportion of households affected by the under occupation penalty
and receiving discretionary housing payments has more than tripled
in some areas.
However just under half of respondents (45%), said that even
this additional funding was insufficient and that the payments are
being supplemented by other forms of local hardship funding. In
most cases this came from the Council's Housing Revenue
Commenting on the report, NFA Policy Director, Chloe Fletcher,
"The results of our latest survey suggest that although overall
levels of rent arrears attributed to welfare reforms are falling
nationally, there are considerable regional differences with the
North of England being hit harder than other areas. There are a
number of reasons for this including a lack of suitable one and two
bed properties to move to and far fewer employment opportunities
for tenants to apply for."
ARCH Policy Adviser Matthew Warburton said:
"Despite the worrying regional variations, the overall picture
of falling arrears does suggest that landlords have put in a lot of
resources and support to minimise the impact of welfare reforms on
their residents and their organisations' finances. However, the
large increase in the number of households receiving discretionary
housing payments could also explain some of the reduction in
arrears which does pose significant questions over how sustainable
this position is in the long term."
The survey also found that voids times have not been
significantly affected by the introduction of the under occupation
penalty and that most organisations have increased staff and
resources to collect rent and to support tenants through financial
and digital inclusion initiatives.
Download the report here