In the first week of the welfare changes a survey of social landlords shows that the top concerns of housing associations are universal credit and funding. Some respondents even questioning the viability of the social housing sector in the future.
The survey by Housing e-Academy revealed that 30 per cent of respondents cited universal credit and benefit changes as the main issue, 37.5 per cent specifically identified residents’ ability to pay their rent, while 25per cent said funding and finance was their main worry. Even in the longer term, five years from now, universal credit and funding and finance are still the areas causing most concern.
Over 50 per cent said the lack of clarity around funding has meant a reduction in the number of new homes being built, although 80 per cent are still building new properties. The majority said their current housing stock was at full capacity and 65 per cent believe they cannot meet current and future demand.
When asked how concerned they were about universal credit, 99 per cent 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 per cent were using staff to provide welfare advice to their tenants while 27 per cent had used various marketing techniques to inform tenants.
Almost all respondents agreed that the sector was going to have to take on new responsibilities and 99 per cent said those responsibilities were around providing an advice service on welfare, budgeting and debt.
Chloe Weatherhead, Head of Housing e-Academy said: “The conclusion to the survey is that universal credit, 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.