- Published: July 22, 2020
This report was commissioned by Southwark Council, with the support of eleven other London local authority landlords and coordinated by London Councils. The research and report focus on two main questions:
- How has the roll-out of Universal Credit (UC) affected rent payment behaviours among residents in local authority-owned housing across London?
- How are identified changes in behaviour – or the absence of behaviour change – affecting the tenancies of those tenants who are receiving housing cost support under the new arrangements?
The research was commissioned against the backdrop of growing evidence of the impact that UC is having on rent payment behaviour and rent arrears, as well broader concerns about how it is affecting the financial wellbeing of recipients.
Much of the previous research in this field has focused on one or two housing providers. The intention of this research was to understand what the overall impact might be across multiple providers and locations.
To achieve that objective the research covered 12 participating London boroughs, who collectively own over 210,000 homes – 13% of council housing in England.1 Including data from these 12 boroughs also offered a larger sample of cases.
The study examined those making a new claim for the housing element of UC during a three-month period (July – September 2019) in the 12 London boroughs with final rental data running until December 2019. This falls after the roll-out of Universal Credit full service to all parts of London, which was completed by December 2018. It also follows a series of reforms made in 2018, including: the abolition of the seven-day waiting period and the introduction of a two-week Housing Benefit (HB) run-on.
The report tells this story of financial stress through analysis of tenant rent accounts. The scale of the costs to social landlords is also apparent in escalating arrears after tenants make an effective UC claim. By examining this impact and tracing rent behaviour over time, the analysis points towards what kind of reforms might be needed to improve UC to the benefit of both tenants and social landlords which are presented in the report.