The National Housing Federation produced produced some desperately misleading spin about the spare room subsidy cut yesterday. It concerned a Ipsos MORI survey of housing association. Curiously enough the NHF press release did not offer a link to the full report. Had it done so we would have seen the following point included:
Rising arrears levels and falls in total rental income have not occurred to the extent anticipated prior to implementation.
The 2012 baseline survey estimated the average total amount of outstanding arrears per responding association at the end of March 2012 was £950,542, with 7% of associations indicating no arrears and 8% with £2m or more. The data clearly indicates the variability in outstanding arrears levels at any given time, having risen by 11% overall over the course of the year between March 2012 and March 2013, despite falling by 16% between the third and fourth quarter.
Given this variability even before welfare reforms were introduced, it is difficult at this stage to attribute any observed rise in outstanding arrears since 31st March 2013 to the introduction of the size criteria alone and is an aspect that will require continued monitoring over the medium and longer term.
The number of tenants who have been evicted where the arrears were, at least in part, due to a failure to pay the size criteria shortfall is equivalent to less than 1% of all those currently affected by the size criteria.
The survey also confirmed that there has been a significant amount of swapping with those in overcrowded conditions:
Associations report that the proportion of tenancies affected by the size criteria dropped by an average of 9.7% between April 2013 and the time of the survey. Just under half (45 %) of all those who have ceased to be affected since 1st April 2013 have downsized by either a transfer or mutual exchange. This represents six percent of all those identified to be affected at 1st April 2013.
David Orr the chief executive of the NHF talks about the spare room subsidy cut “heaping misery and hardship on already struggling families.” Yet he ignores the evidence of his own report that 8,500 housing association tenants have ceased experiencing the misery and hardship of overcrowding due to the chance to swap with those downsizing.
Furthermore when it comes to the hard data on rent arrears collected by the Homes and Communities Agency, the claims of the NHF look even more suspect.
Reputable housing associations should question whether handing over taxpayers money on membership subs to this outfit could be better spent on providing new homes.