New service helps landlords calculate impact of housing benefit reform
A new tool launched by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) will help landlords calculate how much housing benefit their tenants are likely to lose in planned government reforms and assess the risk of vulnerable tenants falling into rent arrears.
Any tenant who is currently in receipt of housing benefit is at risk of having the amount they receive reduced under a range of proposed changes announced in the budget in June. Housing leaders have already expressed concerns in a recent CIH survey that the reforms threaten hardship for individuals, increased rent arrears and a potential knock-on effect on new housing supply.
CIH analysis has revealed that the impact of one change alone, for example reducing housing benefit by 10 per cent for those on Job Seekers’ Allowance for over 12 months, would see claimants living in social homes lose on average £6.70 per week and those living in private sector housing lose on average £11.20 per week. Many low income households will be hit hard by more than one measure at once.
The new housing benefit impact calculator allows landlords to accurately estimate the amount of income which could be at risk on the basis of their rental income, geographical area and type of housing stock. Additional support from CIH in the form of an organisational impact report and an on-site review will help housing providers prepare for and mitigate the impact of the proposed changes on their tenants and on their business.
Steve Partridge, Director of Financial Services at CIH, said: “Landlords need to be prepared for the proposed changes to housing benefit which will hit their tenants hard as well as posing a significant risk to their business. We are offering a comprehensive service to help them understand the risks and ultimately mitigate the worst effects on their organisations and the communities they serve.”
One housing organisation has already trialled the service. Craig Wood, Debt Manager at Wakefield and District Housing, said: "The work WDH have done with CIH has meant that we now have a much clearer understanding of what the proposed changes will actually mean to our business and the real impact they could have on our customers. We are already using this information to consider alternative strategies that will reduce the risk of any negative financial impact to our organisation.”
CIH is doing extensive work with MPs and officials to ensure that the potential impacts of the reforms are fully understood and to reduce the worst consequences of the proposed changes.
More information on the Housing benefit impact calculator and related services can be found at www.cih.org/housingbenefitcalculator
The UK Housing Panel quarterly report September 2010 showed that 78 per cent of respondents said they feared the risk of increased rent arrears from proposed housing benefit changes. Read the full report at www.cih.org/ukhousingpanel