Universal Credit and future funding: social housing sector reveals its greatest fears
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities, Finance
Housing associations are nearly as concerned with funding as they are with Universal Credit (UC), a new survey has revealed.
And some respondents to Housing e-Academy's poll are even questioning the social housing sector's future viability.
“We anticipated UC to be a major concern, however, it was surprising to see how many respondents gave funding and finance almost an equal billing," said Chloe Weatherhead, Housing e-Academy head.
In the short term, 30 percent of social landlords said UC and benefit changes were their greatest concerns, with 37.5 percent specifically identifying residents’ ability to pay their rent as a major fear, while 25 percent said funding and finance was their main worry.
And even in the longer term, five years from now, UC and funding are still the areas that cause the most concern.
Fifty-seven percent said the lack of clarity around funding has meant a reduction in the number of new homes being built - though 80 percent said they are still building new properties.
The majority said their current housing stock was at full capacity and 65 percent believe they cannot meet current and future demand.
When asked how concerned they were about UC, 99 percent of respondents said "very", and of these, half said it was because of the impact it may have on rent payments.
In order to help mitigate these concerns 45 percent said they were using staff to provide welfare advice to their tenants while 27 percent had used various marketing techniques to inform residents.
Nearly 100 percent agreed that the sector was going to have to take on new responsibilities and 99 percent said those responsibilities were around providing an advice service on welfare, budgeting and debt.
Ms Weatherhead added: “The conclusion to the survey is that UC (particularly the impact on rent payments) is going to be a problem for the sector.
"In addition, the uncertainly around the future of funding and finance could place even more pressure on social landlords. In the meantime, businesses are having to re-train staff in order to provide a comprehensive debt and welfare advice service.
“With the changes set to start this week there is no doubt that the social housing sector is facing some of its biggest challenges in its history.
"Whether or not we can meet them is a different story. One respondent asks: ‘Is there a future for social housing providers in the next 5 years?’, while another warns: ‘We won't be a social housing provider in its broadest term any more'.”