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CHC calls for action on cost of living as more tenants seek help

Housing associations across Wales are calling for urgent action by the UK and Welsh governments to support social housing tenants hit by the continung cost of living crisis.

The call comes as Community Housing Cymru (CHC) releases its Ends Won’t Meet cost of living report, which surveyed Welsh associations to find out how increasing living costs are affecting tenants, and how they are supporting the people who live in their homes.

The findings reveal that 74 per cent of housing associations in Wales saw an increase in the number of people who approached them for financial support during the first six months of 2023, compared to the previous six months in 2022. Associations helped provided financial support to more than 14,000 tenants.

Single parents and single tenants were found to be among the most likely to have needed financial support during this period.

The most common reason tenants approached their housing association was to help with energy costs, with half of housing associations surveyed saying they had offered this type of assistance. Some 48 per cent also reported that tenants had approached them for help affording food, and 20 per cent needed assistance with debt.

Specialised teams have been supporting tenants who have approached them with other money concerns too, helping them to maximise their income,  build long-term financial resilience, and offer other financial support.

The survey found that between January and June associations  maximised tenant income by £1,000 per person on average, with 14 of them supporting tenants to receive a total of more than £9 million in additional income during the same period.

The majority of housing associations also offer a lifeline for tenants in financial crisis in the form of a hardship fund. In total, they provided access to over £1.3million in hardship relief, and more than half (59 per cent) have increased the amount of funds available for this financial year.

Hayley Macnamara, Community Housing Cymru’s cost of living lead, called for urgent action to be taken to support social housing tenants who could be facing an increasingly difficult winter.

She said: ‘We are now two years into the cost of living crisis and housing association tenants are facing the financial consequences of months and months of financial strain and hardship.

‘Our report shows the devastating impact rising living costs continue to have on people on the lowest income, including many living in housing association homes.

‘We are calling on Welsh and UK Governments to commit to supporting people living in housing associations now to prevent them from being forced to make heart-breaking decisions this winter.

‘We would encourage anyone living in a housing association home who is concerned about financial difficulty to get in touch with their landlord for support.’

Community Housing Cymru is for immediate action from the UK and Welsh Governments:

UK Government should:

  • Confirm that benefits will be increased in line with inflation from April.
  • Prioritise the creation of an energy social tariff and provide affordable repayment options for those in energy debt, taking forward calls made by National Energy Action (NEA) Cymru, and endorsed by many other charities and consumer organisations.
  • Ensure that the forced installation of prepayment meters does not resume for financially vulnerable households.
  • Commit to review and increase Universal Credit to ensure that the minimum level of support guarantees that people can pay for essentials, implementing calls made by Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Trussell Trust for an Essentials Guarantee.

Welsh Government should:

  • Protect existing emergency funds and ensure that routes to support are accessible and targeted to those who most need it.
  • Continue to fund vital initiatives that target fuel and food poverty, and that support higher rates of benefit take-up.

Community Housing Cymru’s full Ends Won’t Meet cost of living report is available here.

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