EVIDENCE FROM THE SCOTTISH FEDERATION OF HOUSING ASSOCIATIONS

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1 EVIDENCE FROM THE SCOTTISH FEDERATION OF HOUSING ASSOCIATIONS WITH SUPPORT FROM THE HOUSING SUPPORT ENABLING UNIT AT THE COALITION OF CARE AND SUPPORT PROVIDERS IN SCOTLAND HM GOVERNMENT COMPREHENSIVE SPENDING REVIEW THE CAPPING OF SOCIAL RENTS TO THE RATE OF LOCAL HOUSING ALLOWANCE 26 th January 2016 Page 1 of 11

2 1. Introduction 1.1. The Chancellor announced in his Autumn Statement 1 that the amount of rent that Housing Benefit will cover in the social rented sector will be capped at the relevant Local Housing Allowance (LHA) level. That is, Housing Benefit will be subject to LHA maxima. Currently, the level of LHA is, in essence, a reasonable rent for the local private rented sector and it does not apply to the social rented sector. LHA is calculated by taking into account local private market rents, local facilities and services, whether the renter is in shared and how many bedrooms are needed. Single people under the age of 35 years are awarded the shared rate regardless of the number of bedrooms they have, or whether they are actually sharing. For the purposes of LHA the amount that an individual is actually paying in rent is neither here nor there. If the rent is higher than the LHA, the private sector tenant has to fund the shortfall from a source other than Housing Benefit The cap will be applied to all new social tenancies created after April 1st including tenancies for specialist, supported for vulnerable people - and will come into effect from April 1st There is therefore a two year grace period during which tenants taking up tenancies from April 1st 2016 will know that their benefit entitlement will change It is estimated that 62% of housing association tenants rely on Housing Benefit to help them pay for their rent 2. Any change to Housing Benefit can undermine the ability of such tenants to pay their rent, thereby putting their home at risk, and threatening both their physical and mental wellbeing as well as posing a real threat to the financial sustainability of housing associations. 1 HM Government Spending Review and Autumn Statement November Housing Association HB Claimants August 2015: 173,145 (source DWP Stat Xplore) Housing Association selfcontained units: 277,379 (source Scottish Housing Regulator), percentage: 62% Page 2 of 11

3 1.4. The rationale given by the UK Government for the imposition of LHA maxima is that it will help prevent social landlords from charging inflated rent for their properties 3. Amongst other things, this briefing challenges the premise upon which this assertion is based, not least because average housing association rents in Scotland are generally below the average Local Housing Allowance rates applicable across Scotland and thus not inflated There will be losers from the imposition of LHA maxima single people under 35 and those who need supported housing. There will be, as Lord Freud himself has pointed out 4, unintended consequences for the public purse as the only alternatives to the high quality affordable housing provided by housing associations will be institutional care or private housing of higher cost and of poorer value both to the tenant and to the wider community The SFHA has arrived at figures that point to the potential cash impact of the policy in Scotland, as the policy currently stands, based on a small scale piece of research conducted by the SFHA with its members in the weeks since the Autumn Statement. However, we recognise the limitations of the scale of our research; the UK Government does need to undertake and publish more comprehensive research to gauge the potential impact of the policy prior to introduction, and we look forward to the substantial study referred to by Lord Freud when answering questions in the House of Lords on January 25 th, If it becomes clear thereby that the policy will work to the serious detriment of social tenants and social landlords alike, and particularly should it be obvious it will simply shunt costs to other parts of the public finances, the UK Government should undertake to change the policy. 3 HM Government Spending Review and Autumn Statement November Letter from Lord Freud to Alice Evans, Head of Policy Analysis, Homeless Link, April 4 th, Page 3 of 11

4 2. Charging Inflated rents? 2.1. There are 18 Broad Market Rental Areas (BRMAs) in Scotland used to apply Local Housing Allowances (LHA). The average LHA rate for the 18 areas is given below, compared to the average rent charged by housing associations in 2014/15. BRMA Average Housing Association Rent average Percentage difference 1 Bedroom Shared N/A 1 Bedroom % 2 Bedrooms % 3 Bedrooms % 4 Bedrooms % In every category of bedroom size, housing association rents are lower than the BRMA LHA rate. In the case of one bedroom properties the difference is over 20% lower and for four bedroom properties almost 55% lower. 3. Shared rate for single people under The proposed cap on Housing Benefit will limit single tenants who are under 35 to the shared rate regardless of size and will be applied to new tenancies started after April 1 st The SFHA asked its members what proportion of their stock was newly let to tenants under 35 over the course of a year. The median figure was 2%, from the returns received. If applied across the whole housing association stock in Scotland this would mean 4,715 lettings a year would go to tenants under the age of 35. That would mean a potential total of 14,145 lettings over the three years 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/ Admittedly, not all those tenants would be reliant on Housing Benefit for their rent, but overall, 62% of housing association tenants do rely on it, so if we Page 4 of 11

5 assume that the proportion of tenants under 35 in receipt of Housing Benefit mirrors the overall rate of 62%, then 8,770 of those tenants (62% of 14,145) signing up for a new tenancy aged under 35 would need Housing Benefit to help with the rent Using the figures given above for an average one bedroom property rent ( 68.56) and the BRMA shared rate (that applies to single people under 35 years of age) of 62.34, which would be imposed under the Chancellor s proposals, a single person under 35 reliant on Housing Benefit would face a weekly shortfall of 6.22 or per year. Multiplying this figure by the estimated number of tenants affected (8,770), housing associations would risk rental income losses of 2.8 million a year. This is probably a conservative estimate, given that, as of August 2015, there were already 67,462 Housing Benefit claimants in social housing tenancies with housing association in Scotland who were under 35. This is nearly 40% of all tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit in Scotland. 4. Supported Accommodation 4.1. In April 2013 Lord Freud wrote to Alice Evans, Head of Policy Analysis at Homeless Link, to allay concerns that the UK Government s proposed welfare changes may have a detrimental impact on the provision of supported to vulnerable people. (This group is taken to include older people, homeless people and disabled people). In his letter he stated: We would like to make clear our intention to protect providers from any unintended consequences. For example, we wish to protect refuges and hostels where care is provided Across those housing associations surveyed by the SFHA 6, the potential loss (where a loss was identified) to a tenant per week ranged in value from 4.48 (Housing Association D) to (Housing Association H). However, because of the very different numbers of tenants in supported 5 Letter from Lord Freud to Alice Evans, Homeless Link, April 4 th, See the Table in the Appendix Page 5 of 11

6 that each of these two housing associations have, the weekly loss to the former could be much higher ( 17,409) than to the latter ( 975). For this reason it is as important to understand the total potential loss to landlords as the total potential loss to individual tenants. It is not possible for housing associations to simply lower their rents for supported in line with LHA rates, as the additional costs of accommodating or providing housing related services to people with support needs are directly reflected in higher rents and/or service charges. These additional costs can result from, for example, the need to install and maintain essential physical adaptations to a property and/or to provide additional services required by the tenant to enable them to maintain their tenancy and live independently The Autumn Statement indicated that additional Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) funding would be made available to local authorities to protect the most vulnerable. This assurance has yet to be translated into specific proposals, although the broad intention was also referred to in the autumn statement. As it stands the proposal is flawed for a number of reasons: There is a world of difference between a discretionary payment and an entitlement. For a housing association trying to borrow in the private markets in order to create a viable business plan around the provision of supported housing to vulnerable people, discretionary payments cannot provide the security of income that potential lenders require. The proposal would use Discretionary Housing Payments in a way for which they were never intended. As the name makes explicit, they are discretionary, and the discretion rests with the local authority, so it is inevitable that there will be to some extent a postcode lottery. There is the anxiety for vulnerable claimants (and for landlords) of being unsure whether an application will be successful a feature that has already caused distress to disabled tenants who have had to apply for Page 6 of 11

7 Discretionary Housing Payments to mitigate the bedroom tax. Discretionary Housing Payments were only ever designed to provide temporary, transitional support; they were never meant to be a permanent solution to the kinds of unintended consequences which Lord Freud himself recognises as a risk. LHA rates are determined by prevailing private rented sector market conditions whereas supported rents are determined by the cost of provision to support vulnerable people. There is an obvious disconnect between the basis on which the LHA rate is calculated and the purpose for which the Chancellor s new policy seeks to use it. DHP would have to be adjusted to reflect the actual costs of supported if it is to be properly protected. The Discretionary Housing Payment fund is an annual allocation and cash limited, leaving the prospect that there may be no funding available at some point during the year, irrespective of the needs of the claimant. Even if an application is successful, there is the anxiety that a renewal application will not be so lucky. This uncertainty is likely to cause reluctance amongst some potential tenants to take up tenancies in supported even though they need the support. They may not seek or accept the type of housing they know they need because they know they will not be able to afford to pay for it. This will obviously cause distress amongst applicants and new tenants and will have a consequent impact on income for associations as properties that would otherwise be let remain empty (void), which loss of income and costs of maintaining those void properties in turn affects the ability of associations to develop and provide supported (or indeed any), thereby creating a particularly vicious cycle The alternatives available if a vulnerable person in need of supported cannot access it are bleak. Some individuals with complex needs may end up sleeping rough or end up in prison. Some tenants, Page 7 of 11

8 particularly older and disabled people, may end up in hospital. Neither custodial care nor hospital care is cheaper than supported : the average annual cost of a prison place is 31,703 7 ; the cost of a general hospital stay is 530 per night nearly 194,000 per year 8. In contrast, and by way of an example, an association providing supported care for tenants with very complex needs at the high end of the cost spectrum, costs 18,435 p.a., considerably less than either prison or hospital. Neither prison nor hospital care will enhance the life chances of the individual. In the case of hospital admissions of patients aged 75 or over, for example, they may experience functional decline as early as 72 hours after admission and the risk increases with each day delayed in hospital. This increases the risk of harm and of a poor outcome for the individual and further increases the demand for institutional care or more intensive support at home SFHA urgently undertook a very small scale study of Scottish housing associations. We have sample of eight, which provide various levels of supported. Our intention was to get a very broad indication of the potential impact of applying the LHA cap to supported rents on their tenants income (and consequently upon the housing associations income). The data received were in some cases partial, so drawing firm conclusions is challenging. The benefit system throws up a number of permutations as to what a claimant in supported is entitled, based simultaneously on the type of a person or people occupy, their age, whether they are single or not, whether they are sharing or not and with whom. In order to arrive at indicative figures, certain 7 Armstrong, Sarah; Malloch, Margaret, Nellis, Mike, Morris, Paul. Social Research. Crime and Justice. Evaluating the Effectiveness of Home Detention Curfew and Open Prison in Scotland. Research Findings No Available at < 8 This figure was calculated by examining the Inpatient Cost per Case (average cost in a large general hospital) found at by dividing by the average length of a hospital stay in 2010/ /15 available at https://www.isdscotland.org/health-topics/hospital-care/publications/ /Average_length_of_stay_Dec15.xlsx 9 NHS Scotland, Information Services Division, Delayed Discharges in NHS Scotland, December Available at <https://isdscotland.scot.nhs.uk/health-topics/health-and-social-community-care/publications/ / DelayedDischarges-Summary.pdf? > Page 8 of 11

9 reasonable assumptions were made as to the situation underpinning the data received. This has led to a very wide range of potential loss - between an estimated 2.4 million and 11.5 million a year for the sample. It is important to recognise that these figures represent real potential losses if the assumptions were borne out. They represent to some extent a worst and a best case scenario: more detail in due course would likely fill in the range between the two figures rather than invalidate either Using the sample data in the Appendix, if we take the average loss per housing association in rental income to people in supported (and therefore their landlords), the estimated loss is between 0.3 million and 1.5 million per year. Extrapolating this figure to all 162 housing associations in Scotland gives an overall range of between 48.6 million and 243 million per year. This range is necessarily broad and indicative, for a variety of reasons, including the fact that not all housing associations provide supported. 5. Conclusion 5.1. Based on preliminary small scale findings, in relation to single people under 35 and those in supported, the SFHA considers that: The loss to those Scottish housing associations in the sample could be anywhere from 5.2 million 10 to million a year. The loss to the entire Scottish sector is likely to run into hundreds of millions of pounds a year, putting at risk services, investment, jobs and the health and wellbeing of thousands of vulnerable people, including older people and disabled people. 10 ( 2.4 million par million par. 3.3) 11 ( 11.5 million par million par. 3.3) Page 9 of 11

10 The SFHA welcomes the announcement from the UK Government that they will undertake a proper economic impact analysis to gain an accurate figure of the impact of the LHA cap. We invite the UK Government to work in partnership with housing associations in Scotland and across the UK to: suspend the implementation of the policy at least until the UK Government s own economic impact analysis is completed and published; rethink the policy should it become obvious that it will have a catastrophic impact on some of the most vulnerable people in our society, on the social landlords that support them, or increase spending in other budgets; take measures to ensure that the financial security and stability of those vulnerable people and of the social landlords that support them are safeguarded. Page 10 of 11

11 APPENDIX: SFHA case studies of the impact of LHA maxima across supported in Scotland Column Housing Association (HA) Total weekly rent (including Eligible Service Charges) Average LHA rate for shared across BRMA areas covered by HA Average LHA rate for one bedroomed across BRMA areas covered by HA Difference per week between rent and average LHA rate for shared (loss to tenant) (Column 1 - Column 2) Difference per week between rent and average LHA rate for one bedroomed (loss to tenant) (Column 1 - Column 3) Total number of tenants in supported for this HA Number of those tenants under 35 years of age (and assumed to be single) Weekly loss for total number of tenants, and for this HA, assuming all tenants are in shared (Column 4 x Column 6) Yearly loss for total number of tenants, and for this HA, assuming all tenants are in shared (Column 8 x 52) Weekly loss for total number of tenants over 35 years of age (and so assumed to be in receipt of LHA rate for one bedroomed ) and for this HA ((Column 6 - Column 7) x Column 5) Weekly loss for total number of tenants under 35 years of age (and so assumed to be in receipt of LHA rate for shared ) and for this HA (Column 7 x Column 4) Weekly loss for total number for tenants and for this HA, using assumptions based on age profile and consequent LHA rate (Column 10 + Column 11) Yearly loss for total number for tenants and for this HA, using assumptions based on age profile and consequent LHA rate (Column 12 x 52) A , , , , , B , because nobody is over , C (no loss) , , because this HA s rent is below this LHA rate so there is no loss , D , ,167, , because nobody is under 35-17, , E (no loss) , , because this HA s rent is below this LHA rate so there is no loss , F , ,529, , , , ,004, G (no loss) , ,107, because this HA s rent is below this LHA rate so there is no loss 0 because nobody is under 35-3, , H , , because nobody is under , Totals 220, per week 11, 453, per year 44, per week 2, 336, per year Page 11 of 11

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