The steepest rises in the number of people seeking advice came from the East Midlands
The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) has reported a 13% increase in the number of social housing tenants approaching the charity for rent arrears advice between July to September this year, and warns that households are not yet feeling the effects of the economic recovery.
The charity suggests that the controversial ‘bedroom tax’, or ‘Under-Occupancy Penalty’, as well as changes to Council Tax support are behind the 13% surge.
Citizens Advice claim that requests for advice about Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP’s), available to social housing tenants to help them pay their rent when they are hit by the ‘bedroom tax’, has more than doubled in six months since April when the policy was introduced.
In the second quarter of 2013, Citizens Advice Bureau provided advice on:
- 22,412 issues about social housing rent arrears – a 13 per cent increase on the same period last year;
- 2,840 issues about possessions claims due to rent arrears in the social housing sector – a 38 per cent increase on the same period last year;
- 2,736 issues about threatened homelessness in social housing – a 12 per cent increase on the same period last year;
- 3,307 issues about Discretionary Housing Payments – a 110 per cent increase on the same period last year.
Citizens Advice research shows that the North East and the West Midlands have been hardest hit and the steepest rises in the number of people seeking advice came from the East Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber.
Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, said:
“We are on the edge of a serious housing crisis. There are simply not enough homes to meet need and the result is yet more pressure on household budgets.
“Despite the good news, the economic warning lights are still flashing. The emerging trend of increasing social housing arrears is extremely worrying. Cases of arrears are up across every region of England, with the Midlands and parts of the North showing the starkest deterioration. Prices which far outstrip incomes and the damaging impact of high food and energy bills make paying rent simply impossible for many people.
“The impact of welfare reform is crucial. Done right, reforms such as Universal Credit could simplify support and incentivise work. However what we’ve seen in recent months is what can happen if reforms are rushed in without proper safety net in place.
“The debate over our state safety net must move away from the idea that it is entirely about money. Direct financial support is essential in helping people meet day-to-day costs, but the long-term importance of getting infrastructure right, particularly housing, cannot be ignored.”
The CAB say 45% of all those who approach the charity for advice are social housing tenants. 31% are private tenants and 20% were in the process of buying their own home. Only 5% of their clients own their home outright, which suggests that rent payers (social housing and private sector renters) have been hit the hardest by benefit changes.