Housing Benefit: Social Rented Housing

House of Lords written question – answered on 28th July 2014.

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Photo of Lord German Lord German Liberal Democrat

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the reasons why, according to their recent Evaluation of Removal of the Spare Room Subsidy: Interim Report, 4.5 per cent of people affected have downsized to smaller accommodation, compared with the 25 per cent estimated in the impact assessment Housing Benefit: Under occupation of social housing, published in 2012.

Photo of Lord Freud Lord Freud The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Across the social sector as a whole there are a total of around 1.4 million one-bedroom properties (GB). Managing that stock efficiently is part of the challenge that social landlords must embrace. Landlords were given three years notice to start to prepare for this change and during that time were encouraged to take account of local needs and demographic trends when allocating properties and developing their building programmes.

There is turnover of properties in the social sector, and with suitable management and prioritisation by social landlords this should provide a means of allowing many of those affected by the Removal of the Spare Room Subsidy to move to suitable properties over time.

The 2012 Impact Assessment: stated there was little robust evidence on which to base an assessment of behavioural responses and so did not predict the likely extent of downsizing. The 25 per cent figure within the Impact Assessment reflected research which asked a hypothetical question about what people thought they might do in response to a reduction, but this was undertaken some time before the full details of the policy were finalised.

The Impact Assessment did look at the potential sensitivity of the estimated savings to moves by affected claimants. This sensitivity testing was based on an assumption that around 50,000 affected claimants moved (around 8 per cent). This was not a prediction, but both the interim evaluation report and ad-hoc analysis show that people are downsizing. The ad-hoc report shows around 19,000 had downsized in the Social Rented Sector between May and December 2013, broadly within the bounds of the Impact Assessment sensitivity analysis.

It was never assumed that downsizing was a remedy for everyone and we were not in a position to predict how many people would choose to move.

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