One of the arguments against the Government welfare reforms generally – and the spare room subsidy cut in particular – was that it would result in homes being left empty. It was claimed – by the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves – that housing associations would not find anyone able to afford the larger properties.
However a survey for Inside Housing magazine has found that social landlords have “reported a drop of nearly 10 per cent in void properties over the past year, confounding sector fears that welfare reforms would trigger a spike in empty homes.”
Of the 67 landlords across Britain who took part there were 8,878 empty properties on July 1st this year – compared to 9,829 reported a year earlier. It is also lower than the figure of 9,583 empty homes in July 2012 – before the spare room subsidy cut was introduced.
Certainly within the total there is wide variation suggesting that some housing associations have been more innovative than others in making the most effective use of their stock.
A spokesman for Anchor, which almost halved its turnaround time from 61 to 33 days, said:
“We have marketing activity targeting areas with larger void numbers.”
AmicusHorizon halved the number of empty properties from 380 in 2012 to 191- it now “ensures sign-ups for new properties are completed on the same day as handover.”
The survey also included some council housing – both provided direct and at “arms length”. The National Federation of Arm’s-length Management Organisations noted much more promotion of mutual exchanges. Among the impressive results was from Barnet Homes – where the number of empty properties fell from 77 to 47 in just one year and Cornwall Housing which a fall from 156 to 103.
Those social landlords that presided over an increase should be challenged over their performance. It is true that local conditions vary. But the overall fall shows that they should not be allowed to shrug off their failings as “inevitable” and just blame the Government.