Does ‘Affordable Rent’ help anything, apart from government’s housing stats?

Old fashioned social housing was originally to support the majority of working people with decent homes at a low rent, for the long term, in stable communities. Indeed, right at the beginning social housing was reserved for those working and often working on better incomes than the average.

It became a tenure in which we housed the poorest and most vulnerable who could not afford the housing they needed in the market. It provided for them a long-term home and the chance to build a life in a community.

In both cases, there was a clear rationale for what social housing was for, even if the latter did not succeed always in creating the prosperous or sustainable communities.

‘Affordable Rent’ is at an intermediate rent level, but the government still say it is for the poorest and those in need on council waiting lists. It can only do this job however once combined with housing benefit to make up for the higher rents which the poorest can’t afford.

But even then, housing benefit will not cover the new higher rents in many places. So housing associations want to pitch the homes higher up the income chain, to those working on low to medium incomes.

So is it more accurate to say that this is a sub-market rent for working families in stable communities, as traditional social housing was? That is, it is not the option for the poorest.  

Well, not really. It will force many working people on to housing benefit when in the past, the low rents of social housing kept them out of benefit dependency. And the government’s tenure reforms (fixed-term and when your ‘need’ ends you move out) makes affordable rent more like a safety net only for the most vulnerable in certain circumstances.

I can only see that the purpose of this ‘affordable rent’ product is to help the government keep up affordable housing stats. Who in the real world is it designed to help? It’ll help some people depending how housing associations use it and any new homes are needed, but it hasn’t been designed with any family, household or ‘end user’ in mind.

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2 Responses to Does ‘Affordable Rent’ help anything, apart from government’s housing stats?

  1. Pingback: This year more than 10 million Americans are having to choose between paying rent and buying food | International Times of Dominica

  2. BB says:

    The problem is not the housing benefit won’t cover affordable rent – the reason housing associations are looking higher up the income chain is firstly because they’re worried about the increased arrears risk of not being paid HB direct in the future. And because it’s not perceived to be a sustainable policy – the messages from CLG and Shapps are that they’re confident that the policy isn’t going to push up the HB bill – an arguement that doesn’t seem to withstand scrutiny.

    HAs are worried that the reality of the situation is that the HB bill will climb, and when this happens the affordable rent policy is going to crumble.

    Taking tenants on HB has always been a lower risk option for HAs (arguably too low risk, as there’s little incentive to help their tenants escape benefits). The uncertainty the new proposals present mean that non-HB dependent working families are going to become the low-risk option.

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