Headlines: May 25th, 2012

Social tenants in rural areas are more likely than those in urban areas to have to move house as a consequence of reductions in housing benefit.

Research by the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning found that reductions in benefits for those who live in social-rented properties with more bedrooms than they need will have a greater impact on people living in rural areas than urban areas. This may force people to choose between losing benefit and moving away from their friends and community in search of smaller properties in towns. There is an acute shortage of one-bedroom properties in many rural districts.,

Some people need to re-locate as a consequence of the benefit reductions affecting the private rented sector will have to move tens of miles across a ‘broad market rental area’, away from friends and family and possibly from a rural to an urban area

Lead researcher Anna Clarke remarked: “These changing benefit criteria are likely to lead to increased demand for smaller social rented properties in rural areas. We also found particular problems with housing quality and fuel poverty in rural areas, and concern over the affordability of the new Affordable Rent product, which is largely replacing the construction of new social housing.”

Commenting on the research Professor Mark Shucksmith, Council of Rural Communities, said: “Changes to benefit eligibility sometimes have unintended consequences. The Commission is concerned that these changes will affect vulnerable people in rural area in ways that have not been anticipated, and will lead younger people to move out of small rural settlements. Other people too may lose benefit unless they move to smaller homes – perhaps away from their friends and communities. There is a real danger that such places will be less sustainable, and less able to support jobs and services.”