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Provision of housing advice services one of four JRF policy proposals to tackle housing related poverty

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has recommended that independent housing advice services are provided in England, Scotland and Wales in order to improve housing affordability for low-income households. The recommendation is one of four proposals identified in a recently published policy report examining housing and life experiences

Independent housing advice to tackle poverty

The provision of housing advice services is specifically highlighted by JRF as a mechanism to improve housing affordability for low-income households. The proposal notes that such an advice service already exists in Northern Ireland and recommends that independent, consistent housing advice services be developed for England, Wales and Scotland.

 JRF recommend that such a service should consist of website-based information initially, with the options of phone, face-to-face, or online advice. The aim of this service is to help those who are struggling with housing costs to understand their options, ensure the best use of their housing resources, and reduce the risk of homelessness or need for temporary accommodation.

In making the case for the provision of such services, a summary report produced by JRF states;

  • There is an opportunity for independent, consistent housing advice services, for all tenures and needs, to be available across all four nations in the United Kingdom.
  • Advice through the services would address housing costs, the complexity of the benefits system, and the unresponsiveness of the current housing system.
  • Set-up costs of the services should be funded by national governments, with running costs split between the government, local authorities and charitable or grant funding.

In addition to recommending a Housing Advice Service, JRF also propose the following initiatives to tackle housing related poverty;

House to Home 
This recommendation aims to make a house a home without significant cost to the social tenant. Social housing tenants should be given access to affordable furniture packages and properties should have floor and window coverings and basic decorative standards. This would reduce the risk of tenants getting into high levels of debt or have to go without basic goods. Making a house a home would also reduce eviction rates, reduce refusals of properties, and create a more positive relationship between tenant and social landlord.

Social Sharing 
Social landlords should expand their provision of shared accommodation to tackle the lack of affordable housing options for single people. It should be delivered through the conversion of existing homes for a small number of sharers. This would tackle the lack of affordable housing options for young and single people and also create social benefits such as reducing isolation and enabling independence. Further, shared housing is cost-effective for landlords and by keeping the number of sharers low, major management challenges would be avoided.

Access to Rent 
The Government should create a deposit loan scheme to make access to the private rental sector more affordable for those on low incomes. Through this scheme, the Government would provide dedicated financing, based on government borrowing rates, to existing bodies that would provide affordable and fair loans to those on low incomes. Agencies likely to administer the scheme would include local authorities, credit unions or other social lenders. This proposal would enable low-income households to better afford the up-front costs of a security deposit, which often represent a significant barrier to accessing the private rental sector

Wider study of the housing and life experiences of poorer households

The policy proposals have been developed by JRF following a longitudinal study focusing on housing and life experiences of poorer households which evidence the role good quality and stable housing can have in mitigating poverty and supporting life events.

The study concludes that

  • Current housing systems and the associated welfare systems often do not adequately respond to life events such as relationship breakdown and the onset of poor health.
  • While social housing can provide a secure tenancy with affordable rent, the lack of supply, poor state of decoration and repair, and location can undermine its potential for social tenants.
  • Despite the private rented sector being increasingly used by a wide mix of households, it is difficult for those on low incomes to create a home in this sector since they are restricted to accessing properties at the lower end of the sector, high housing costs, poor quality housing and /or the precariousness of tenancies.
  • People often rely on support from their family in order to make and keep a home.

 

Tagged In

Outside NI, Research, Policy

Author

Eimear O'Connor