Poverty and problematic debt: what can social housing providers do?

This round up provides suggestions on what social housing providers can do to address poverty and help prevent tenants from moving into problematic debt and rent arrears.

The current economic situation and planned welfare reform have led to concerns over a potential increase in problematic debt (not only rent arrears) among social housing residents. This round up looks at how the social housing sector can ensure their response takes their tenants' wider circumstances into account.

This round up provides suggestions on what social housing providers can do to address poverty and help prevent tenants from moving into problematic debt and rent arrears. There are many things registered providers are already doing – or can consider – to put reducing poverty and problematic debt at the heart of delivering their business.

These include:

  • Integrating an anti-poverty approach in housing management practice. For example: maintaining affordable rents, keeping service costs low, developing a more personalised and interactive relationship with residents to support early identification of problems and solutions.
  • Recognising that people manage their finances and think about debt in different ways, and putting this at the heart of how ‘resident relationships’ are managed.
  • Understanding residents’ wider circumstances (household financial and debt histories, employment, caring, living costs and household outgoings).
  • Registered providers taking a lead in initiating networks involving local housing providers, independent debt advice centres and projects promoting financial literacy. Registered providers sharing knowledge and good practice.
  • Offering genuine choices to residents that match their preferences for getting information, making payments and seeking support.
  • Becoming an anti-poverty employer, for example adopting the Living Wage.
  • Affordability is specific to individual circumstances. Some housing, care and support costs are ineligible for state subsidy, so reducing residents’ incomes below the notional income floor.
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