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Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Scotland’s poorest families could be £220m a year worse off by 2016 because of dramatic changes to benefits, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA)said this week.

The body warned MSPs this week that over two-thirds of working age households living in housing association properties rely on housing benefit to pay their rent.

Changes, such as the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ where tenants lose some of their housing benefit if they have a spare room, could see thousands struggling to pay their rent.

This could also have a devastating impact on social housing providers and their ability to build new affordable homes in Scotland, the SFHA said.

The organisation spoke out as the Scottish Parliament is due to debate the Scottish Welfare Reform Bill next week.

The bill is a result of the refusal to give full legislative consent to the UK act. It gives Scottish Ministers powers to make provisions in response to aspects of UK wide reform.

Mary Taylor, chief executive of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, said: “The main objective of the UK Government’s welfare reform agenda has been to reduce public spending but the combined effect represents a significant loss to individual households and to local economies.

“Not only will the changes make life harder for tenants, they will also put at risk rental income for housing associations and co-operatives, affecting their ability to provide good quality housing and services.

“Tenants will also need additional support, to try to prevent rent arrears getting out of control. The implications for housing providers are massive.”

The body called on the Scottish Government to help with the cost of advice to social tenants. It also said that bank accounts and credit unions should be promoted more and that more access to the internet is needed.

Taylor said that Scottish politicians “can play an important role in making sure the UK Government understands the impact of decisions on communities and social landlords in Scotland.”

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