New survey: 1/3 of social housing residents having difficulty or unable to manage debt

New survey: 1/3 of social housing residents having difficulty or unable to manage debt

The latest social housing resident survey of the Resident Voice Index (RVI) has looked into debt and how it is impacting the lives of people living in social housing amid the cost of living crisis.

The resulting report reveals levels of worrying, all or most of the time, about being able to meet normal monthly living expenses had increased to 78% from 68% in the six months since the first Cost of Living survey (March-May 2022).

The RVI project collects data on the requirements, feelings and perceptions of social housing residents and communicates these to the broader audience who may be able to make a difference.

5,719 UK social housing residents responded to the latest survey, the findings of which have been put together in ‘Cost of Living: Crunch Time’ – the second RVI report to focus on the cost of living crisis and its impact on UK social housing residents. The first was in June 2022.

Debt

Debt, and the worry surrounding it, were main factors in the survey’s findings with eight in ten of all respondents having debt. Of those with debt, 28% had four or more sources of debt, while 10% had six or more sources.

The sources of debt identified in the report show credit card debt was by far the most prevalent, with 41% of respondents selecting it. 24% had debt in the form of energy bill arrears, 22% selected debt to friend or family member. Also in the top ten sources of debt were water bill arrears, goods on finance, buy-now-pay-later, council tax arrears, overdraft, rent arrears and bank or building society loan.

The report identifies the quarter (24%) of respondents who were already in energy bill arrears as particularly concerning, as almost all respondents (97%) took the survey before the introduction of the October 2022 energy price cap hikes.

Data from Ofgem gathered in late October 2022 estimated that more than 2 million households were already in debt on electricity bills, representing over 8% of the UK’s households. The much higher rate of social housing residents reporting energy arrears in the survey is flagged as deep cause for concern.

Debt management and worry

The survey also looked at how people believed they were managing debt. One third of respondents (33%) were having difficulty (20.7%) or reported being unable to manage (12.7%) their debt.

Almost half (47%) were labelled as ‘managing’ their debt. However, a majority (36%) of those chose the option: ‘I have debt that I can manage, but it’s getting harder’.

Almost all (95%) of those who weren’t managing their debt reported being worried all or most of the time about meeting monthly living expenses. This compares with a much lower 69% amongst those who were coping with their debt. Both numbers are very high and the overall score for this high-level worry was 78% across all respondents.

Responses to the survey among residents who mentioned disabilities highlighted a recurrent concern that disability benefits, such as Personal Independence Payment (PIP) are failing to cover the rising costs of fuel, food and other goods. When respondents were asked about any contributors to feelings of worry, 3.5% of answers made voluntary reference to disability.

The survey also asked respondents to rate their financial situation compared with six months ago, selecting either: ‘Better’, ‘The same’ or ‘Worse’. 69% indicated that their financial situation was worse and only 7% were able to commit to a better situation.

Gavin Smart, chief executive of Chartered Institute of Housing, said in the report: “This latest report from the Resident Voice Index comes at a critical time for the social housing sector.

“The cost of living crisis is affecting everyone but those on the lowest incomes, many of whom live in social housing, are impacted the most. These research findings shine a light on the devastating impact that cost pressures are having on residents every day across the country and are invaluable for organisations such as ours in raising awareness.

“The social housing sector is well placed to support people but we need to work together to highlight the support available and to call for policy change where it’s needed.”

Regulator writes to social housing landlords about damp and mould

Regulator writes to social housing landlords about damp and mould

The Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) has written to registered housing providers asking for details of their measures to protect their tenants from hazardous damp and mould.

The letter highlights landlords’ responsibility to take action to identify and deal promptly with damp and mould cases when they are raised by tenants.

It comes after the tragic death of two-year old Awaab Ishak, who died of a respiratory condition caused by mould in his home in Rochdale. Awaab’s parents had repeatedly raised the issue with their landlord, Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH).

Addressing Parliament on social housing standards, following the two-year old’s death, Secretary of State Michael Gove said: “Awaab’s parents had repeatedly raised their concerns about the desperate state of their home with their landlord, the local housing association Rochdale Boroughwide Housing.

“Awaab’s father first articulated his concerns in 2017 and others, including health professionals, also raised the alarm, but the landlord failed to take any kind of meaningful action.

“Rochdale Boroughwide Housing’s repeated failure to heed Awaab’s family’s pleas to remove the mould in their damp-ridden property was a terrible dereliction of duty.”

A statement from RBH chief executive Gareth Swarbrick, who has since been removed from the position, read: “I am truly devastated about Awaab’s death and the things we got wrong.

“We know that nothing we can say will bring Awaab back or be of any consolation to his family. We have and will continue to learn hard lessons from this.

“We didn’t recognise the level of risk to a little boy’s life from the mould in the family’s home. We allowed a legal disrepair process to get in the way of promptly tackling the mould.

“We must make sure this can never happen again. Awaab’s death needs to be a wake-up call for everyone in housing, social care and health.

“We will take responsibility for sharing what we have learnt about the impact to health of damp, condensation and mould with the social housing sector and beyond.

“We support the Coroner and Housing Ombudsman’s call for the government’s Decent Homes Standard to be strengthened to include damp and mould, and the Coroner’s decision to write to the Ministers of Housing and Health on this.

“The Coroner recognised the changes we have made to our procedures, IT, communications and training. We note the Coroner’s words that she was impressed with the learning RBH has taken and desire to share with others. As a result, she will not be issuing us with a Prevention of Future of Deaths Report.

“We agree with the Coroner that the tragic death of Awaab will be and should be a defining moment for the housing sector.

“As a community owned organisation we support the diverse communities of Rochdale. We are proud of the work we do with all our tenants.”

The RSH letter, which has now been sent out, states housing association and local authority landlords will need to submit evidence to the regulator to demonstrate that they have systems in place to assess and deal with damp and mould issues in their homes, and that they are addressing risks to their tenants’ health.

Fiona MacGregor, chief executive of RSH, said: “The tragic case of Awaab Ishak has rightly focused attention on the responsibility of all registered providers to ensure that the homes they provide are well maintained and of a decent standard.

“The case demonstrates the serious effects that having damp and mould in homes can have on people’s health and highlighted once again the importance of providers listening to their tenants’ concerns, understanding their diverse needs, removing barriers to accessing services and responding promptly.”

The letter to registered providers of social housing owning 1,000 homes or more asks for evidence to be provided of:

  1. Firstly, your approach to assessing the extent of damp and mould issues affecting your properties, including how you assess the prevalence of category 1 and 2 damp and mould hazards
  2. Secondly, and in the context of that approach, your most recent assessment of the extent of damp and mould hazards in your homes, including the prevalence of category 1 and 2 damp and mould hazards
  3. Thirdly, given those findings, the action you are taking to remedy any issues and hazards, and ensure that your homes meet the Decent Homes Standard
  4. Lastly, tell us how you ensure that individual damp and mould cases are identified and dealt with promptly and effectively when raised by tenants and residents.

The letter states explanations should be supported with recent data.

Social housing providers with fewer than 1,000 homes have been instructed to inform the regulator immediately if they are not taking action to remedy damp and mould issues, or do not have a comprehensive understanding of the extent of potential damp and mould issues in their homes.

The regulator says it will review this information and, where there is evidence that providers are not meeting regulatory standards, it will take appropriate action.

Town and Country Housing joins Peabody Group, boosting its housing output

Town and Country Housing joins Peabody Group, boosting its housing output

Town and Country Housing (TCHG) has joined the Peabody Group, becoming a subsidiary of the G15 housing provider.

The housing association currently provides more than 9,500 affordable homes in 15 local authority areas in Kent and Sussex.

The move to become part of the Peabody Group was originally announced in November 2018. It’s now been agreed following a period of consultations with residents and stakeholders and gaining the relevant consents.

Although it’s joining the Peabody family, Town and Country Housing will retain its name and operate as a subsidiary.

The link-up will enable the two organisations to combine their strength and build 800 new homes across the South East every year – 500 more than Kent-based TCHG would be able to deliver on its own.

It takes Peabody’s new homes target to 3,300 per year from 2021.

The move sees TCHG CEO Bob Heapy joining Peabody’s executive team, and the company’s chair, Francis Salway, joining the Peabody board.

A joint statement from Lord Kerslake, chair of Peabody, and Francis Salway said: “This combines the strength of two organisations to deliver more much-needed affordable homes in the South East.

“Becoming part of the Peabody family, while remaining as a separate subsidiary, will help strengthen Town and Country’s offer in the South East, ensuring Peabody remains focused on its heartland in London.”

The Peabody Group now owns and manages more than 66,000 homes across London and the South East.

Peabody through the years

In 2017 Peabody completed a merger with Family Mosaic. As a result, the housing association has homes spread across 29 London boroughs along with homes in Essex, Sussex, Hampshire and Kent.

Read more about Peabody’s growth and development here.

For more information about Town and Country Housing, click here.