CEO’s Blog – 17/03/2016

The Housing Challenge and March’s Budget “Small Print”

Being a homelessness charity, it can sometimes be forgotten that The Bridge Trust is also a housing charity as, alongside the support we give we also provide people with a home. It is with sadness therefore that I report that we are reducing our capacity in this respect as we are having to sell one of our properties in order to maintain our finances over what will prove to be an extremely challenging couple of years for us. We will not be making any current residents homeless because of this but it does of course mean that we will not be able to help as many people out of homelessness in the future. We are praying that this will only be a temporary setback and that in the future we will be in a position to replace this house, maybe with an even bigger and better one, but for now, we need to tighten our belts and make the best use of our limited resources. Unfortunately we see only further pressures being applied to not only our own ability to house people but to the availability of supported or social/affordable housing altogether.

Firstly, Social Housing providers like our Local Housing Associations (LHA’s) have previously been allowed to increase their rents by Consumer Price Index (CPI) + 1% and they have therefore budgeted on that basis. Now they have to reduce their rents by 1% a year over 4 years. It is not for me to speak on behalf of LHA’s but budgets have been reduced by £millions and staff numbers and added-value services are being cut already. This will undoubtedly affect the availability of housing to our own client group – less housing for increasing demand. At present this policy has not been applied to supported accommodation like ours, but has been postponed for 1 year whilst that decision is made.

As if this wasn’t enough, the government are also reducing the amount of rents chargeable by LHA’s from Housing Benefit rates to the much lower Local Housing Allowance rates. The plan is to introduce this in 2018 but again, it has not yet been decided whether this will also be applied to us, but if it is then it would deprive us of 15% of our total income – forcing a complete re-think of what we are able to do for homeless people in our community.

I did notice that the Chancellor’s announcement about this in his 2015 Autumn statement said that he would cut £500m in housing benefit. In the (very) small print of his March budget, this has been increased to almost £1bn of cuts. He announced the (most welcome) £115m extra money for homelessness but he forgot to mention the extra £500m cut in housing benefit!

In summary, these things may have a seismic effect on the future supply of social and/or affordable housing. However, despite this depressing picture, with your continued support we will drive forward with our aim to help as many single, homeless adults in our region as we possibly can.