Local Housing Allowance and Social Housing: An Analysis of Accommodation Provided by BHT

The government announced in the Autumn Statement its intent to cap from April 2018 Housing Benefit for all accommodation provided by social landlords at the level available for private rents. This measure will make unviable many specialist schemes for people who are homeless, have mental health problems, or addressing issues of addiction, because organisations like BHT have to charge additional rent to provide the additional housing management that these projects require.

I have written previously about warnings from many organisations about the impact of these cuts which, they have said, will see the closure of hundreds of thousands of homes. A DWP spokesman has said that this is “unnecessary scaremongering.”

I have undertaken a review to assess the impact on BHT of the measures that, if implemented, would see rents charged by social landlords capped at Local Housing Allowance levels from April 2018.

On the assumption that any shortfall in rent of £10 per week or more would be unaffordable to tenants on benefits to make up:

  • 435 (69.8%) of BHT’s 623 homes / lettings would be unaffordable for those under 35 and
  • 273 (43.8%) would be unaffordable for those over 35.

BHT provides permanent homes (general needs), short term accommodation (private sector leases), and specialist supported accommodation (services mental health, addictions, homelessness, and young people):

  • 90 of BHT’s 162 general needs homes would be unaffordable for those under the age of 35, and 4 would be unaffordable for those over 35;
  • All 194 leased properties would be unaffordable for those under 35, and 149 would be unaffordable for those over 35;
  • 151 of 267 bed spaces in BHT’s specialist supported accommodation would be unaffordable to those under 35, and 120 would be unaffordable for those over 35.The Department for Work and Pensions has said that existing exemptions (for example, for those with a history of homelessness or care leavers) will no longer apply from April 2018.The DWP has said consistently that shortfalls can be offset by Discretionary Housing Payments, funded through grants to local authorities, the level of which are not expected to cover the full scale of the losses.   Average rents (excluding service charge) for BHT’s General Needs Housing are:

BHT is a specialist local housing association. We accommodate people with high support needs, including in our general needs housing. Many will have had a history of rough sleeping, mental illness and/or addictions. 131 (81%) of our 162 general needs tenants are on housing benefit.

BHT’s General Needs Housing

Our average rents:

  • Brighton and Hove: £85.51
  • Hastings: £92.98

Should rents be capped at Local Housing Allowance levels, and on the assumption that any shortfall in rent of over £10 per week would be unaffordable to tenants on benefits, then:

In Brighton:

  • 26 of our one bed homes would be unaffordable to men and women under 35 years of age, with a shortfall in housing benefit of between £12.37 and £32.79. (There would be a shortfall of less than £10 in 19 homes).
  • All homes would remain affordable for those over 35 years of age.

In Hastings

  • All 64 of our one bed homes would be unaffordable to men and women under 35 years of age, with a shortfall in housing benefit of between £15.21 and £39.25 per week.
  • 4 homes would be unaffordable to those over 35 by between £13.29 and £16.97. (There would be a shortfall of less than £10 in 40 homes)

BHT’s Private Sector Leased Accommodation

In Brighton and Hove (103 homes)

  • All 103 homes would be unaffordable for those under 35 by between £57.01 and £120.42
  • 66 homes would be unaffordable for those over 35 by between £10.60 and £50.06

In Eastbourne (70 homes)

  • All 70 homes would be unaffordable for those under 35 by between £21.83 and £120.42
  • 62 homes would be unaffordable for those over 35 by between £26.62 and £71.39. (There would be a shortfall of £6.02 for two other homes)

In Hastings (21 homes)

  • All 21 homes would be unaffordable for those under 35 by between £36.39 and £96.36
  • All homes would be unaffordable for those over 35 by between £14.11 and £74.87

BHT’s Specialist Supported Lettings

In BHT’s Mental Health Services (101 lettings excluding care homes)

  • 71 units of accommodation would be unaffordable for those under 35 by between £52.60 and £193.49
  • 63 units of accommodation would be unaffordable for those over 35 by between £13.22 and £193.49

In BHT’s Alcohol and Drug Service (63 lettings)

  • 10 units of accommodation would be unaffordable for those under 35 by between £29.30 and £64.74
  • 4 units of accommodation would be unaffordable for those over 35 by £29.30.

In BHT’s Homelessness Services (72 lettings)

  • 53 units of accommodation would be unaffordable for those under 35 by between £31.42 and £35.64
  • 53 units of accommodation would be unaffordable for those over 35 by between £31.42 and £35.64

In BHT’s Hastings Young Peoples Service (31 lettings)

  • 17 units of accommodation would be unaffordable for those under 35 by between £14.83 and £74.79
  • I hope that the government, when faced with overwhelming evidence from around the country from providers like BHT, it will reconsider removing the exemption previously enjoyed by specialist supported housing.  If it does not, the question must be: “Where will those people with greater needs be housed, and by whom?”

Note: Average rents in Brighton and Hove increased by 18% in 2015, reaching an average of £1,078 per month. The median earner in Brighton and Hove now has to put aside 65% of their salary to pay for a typical two-bed flat. Nationally, rents increased by 4.9% in 2015 to an average of £739 a month, and surged 8% in London, to £1,596.

BHT’s average rents in its permanent housing:

  • Brighton and Hove: £85.51 or £342.04 per month
  • Hastings: £92.98 or £371.92 per month

Weekly charges are higher in specialist supported housing and in properties we lease from private landlords including our shipping container homes.

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5 thoughts on “Local Housing Allowance and Social Housing: An Analysis of Accommodation Provided by BHT

  1. Good post. This is especially why we need to improve conditions for Private Renters who have the Shortest Tenancies and Highest Average Rents in Europe. The number of Private Renters has already Doubled in a Decade to 11 Million overtaking those renting from Councils and Housing Associations combined for the first time in a generation. This Bill will only decrease social renters and increase private renters.

    Priority must now be to offer longer tenancies and some form of rent control in the Private Rented Sector.

  2. A simple request to government: please think and consult before making announcements – Andy Winter's BHT Blog

  3. Theresa May throws a possible lifeline to women refuges, and must now do the same for specialist supported housing – Andy Winter's BHT Blog

  4. Government has announced its plans for supported housing – some positives, many worries – Andy Winter's BHT Blog

  5. I despair more and more about the government’s handling of the crisis over funding for specialist supported housing – Andy Winter's BHT Blog

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