HCI Calls on Chancellor to Lighten the Austerity Burden on Social Tenants
Published by Dawn Prentice for Dawn Prentice Communications in Communities and also in Care and Support, Environment, Health, Housing, Universal Credit
Birmingham-based think-tank the Human City Institute has called upon the Chancellor to lighten the burden of austerity on social tenants by foregoing further welfare budget cuts when he presents his Autumn Statement on 5th December. New research by HCI shows how the combined effects of austerity and welfare reform are already hitting social tenants hard. HCI’s ‘All in it Together?’ report, supported by social housing providers Aster, Matrix, Trent & Dove and Trident, reveals growing pressures on tenants’ pockets and how many are becoming increasingly desperate in the face of rising costs of food and fuel.
The research tracks how tenants’ incomes, already low at less than £9,000 per annum on average, have lost at least 10 per cent of their purchasing power since the Credit Crunch hit. This equates to a total loss of real terms income circulating in social housing communities of more than £3bn since 2008. This fall in purchasing power has resulted from above inflation increases in necessities, such as food and fuel, which take up disproportionate amounts of tenants’ incomes. Reforms of welfare already announced will remove a further £2bn from tenants’ pockets by 2015. Further cuts may push tenants and their communities over the edge.
Kevin Gulliver, HCI Director and report author, said: “The human consequences of austerity and welfare reform are becoming evident. Many social tenants can’t buy enough food to last the week and rely on the burgeoning food bank network. Most are struggling with escalating fuel bills and are finding it hard to keep warm as winter arrives. Our report shows that we are not ‘all in it together’ in reducing the national debt. Already poor tenants are getting poorer and struggling to cope before the majority of welfare reforms have even come into effect. That the Chancellor is rumoured to be seeking a further £10bn cut in the welfare budget brings into question the viability of social housing communities, will have negative effects on the health and wellbeing of tenants and the life chances of their children and risks serious unrest. There are fairer ways of sharing the burden of austerity including slower reductions of the structural deficit, considering wealth and property taxes and chasing tax evaders.”
Grainia Long, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, who wrote the report’s Foreword said: “HCI’s research shows how difficult life is becoming for many people living in social housing. The Chartered Institute of Housing is very concerned that the combined effects of austerity and welfare reform run counter to the Government's fairness principle, and this report demonstrates clearly that tenants are among those who are disproportionately taking the strain of deficit reduction. I'm pleased that, alongside articulating the problems, HCI has illustrated the important role housing professionals are playing in providing support for tenants in need.”
The research concludes that social landlords like Aster, Matrix, Trent & Dove and Trident are increasingly stepping into the breach left by a retrenching local state by directly providing advice on welfare benefits, money and debt, working with food banks, establishing affordable warmth initiatives to tackle fuel poverty, offering furnished tenancies and empowering tenants through employment and training schemes.