‘Urgent’ action needed to help thousands of housing association tenants struggling with rising living costs
More than 14,000 struggling Welsh social housing tenants received vital financial support from their housing association in the first six months of this year, according to Community Housing Cymru’s latest report.
Community Housing Cymru, which represents 34 housing associations across Wales, is calling for urgent action by the UK and Welsh governments to support social housing tenants, who have been among the hardest hit by the ongoing cost of living crisis.
The call comes as it releases its Ends Won’t Meet cost of living report, which surveyed housing associations across Wales to find out how increasing living costs are affecting tenants, and how housing associations are supporting the people who live in their homes.
The findings reveal that 74% of housing associations in Wales saw an increase in the number of people who approached them for financial support during the first six months of 2023, compared to the previous six months in 2022.
Single parents and single person homes were found to be among the most likely to have needed financial support during this period.
“The cost of living crisis and financial hardship is dominating my workload at present...I’m very proud of the work we do and the difference we make to people’s lives. More and more residents are turning to us as they don’t know where else to turn but my concern is how long can we sustain this for.”
The most common reason tenants approached their housing association was to help with soaring energy costs, with 50% of housing associations surveyed saying they had offered this type of assistance. 48% also reported that tenants had approached them for help affording food, and 20% needed assistance with debt.
Specialised housing association teams have been supporting tenants who have approached them with other money concerns too, helping them to maximise their income, build long-term financial resilience, and offer other financial support.
In addition, the survey found that between January and June housing associations maximised tenant income by £1,000 per person on average, with 14 housing associations supporting tenants to receive a total of more than £9 million in additional income during the same period.
The majority of housing associations also offer a lifeline for tenants in financial crisis in the form of a hardship fund. In total, housing associations provide access to over £1.3million in hardship relief, and more than half (59%) have increased the amount of funds available for this financial year.
“(tenants) are having to make a choice between rent, fuel and food … (this) is having an impact on residents well-being and mental health”
Frontline housing association support worker
Hayley Macnamara, Community Housing Cymru’s cost of living lead, called for urgent action to be taken to support social housing tenants who could be facing an increasingly difficult winter.
She said: “We are now two years into the cost of living crisis and housing association tenants are facing the financial consequences of months and months of financial strain and hardship.
“Our report shows the devastating impact rising living costs continue to have on people on the lowest income, including many living in housing association homes.
“While housing associations are doing all they can to help people facing difficulties, It’s absolutely crucial that they get the urgent financial support they need to afford the basic essentials.
“We are calling on Welsh and UK Governments to commit to supporting people living in housing associations now to prevent them from being forced to make heart-breaking decisions this winter.
“We would encourage anyone living in a housing association home who is concerned about financial difficulty to get in touch with their landlord for support.”
Community Housing Cymru is now calling on UK and Welsh governments to take these actions immediately:
UK Government should:
Confirm that benefits will be increased in line with inflation from April.
Prioritise the creation of an energy social tariff and provide affordable repayment options for those in energy debt, taking forward calls made by National Energy Action (NEA) Cymru, and endorsed by many other charities and consumer organisations.
Ensure that the forced installation of prepayment meters does not resume for financially vulnerable households.
Commit to review and increase Universal Credit to ensure that the minimum level of support guarantees that people can pay for essentials, implementing calls made by Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Trussell Trust for an Essentials Guarantee.
Protect existing emergency funds and ensure that routes to support are accessible and targeted to those who most need it.
Continue to fund vital initiatives that target fuel and food poverty, and that support higher rates of benefit take up.
Housing associations in Wales will:
Continue to support tenants with financial support and advocacy, and monitor the impact of this work.
Continue to work with WLGA and Welsh Government to deliver an awareness campaign which encourages social housing tenants to turn to their landlord for help.
Continue to explore community partnerships to enable tenants to access short term relief, including partnerships with food banks and local credit unions.
Ensure that rents are affordable for tenants, by engaging with tenants and using tools to understand affordability.
Community Housing Cymru’s full Ends Won’t Meet cost of living report is available here.
For media queries please contact Gemma Gwilym on firstname.lastname@example.org.