Universal Credit hitting tenants hard
A Scottish Government report has revealed that rent arrears for recipients of universal credit are more than double the average.
The report described the welfare reforms has having a “substantial impact” on people's ability to pay rent. More than 75% of social tenants in East Lothian are in arrears, compared to just 30% of all renters in the region. Tenants across the sector are already being hit by a combination of severely above inflation rent rises and stagnating earnings, which delays in Universal Credit have severely exacerbated.
This follows a report by the Trussell Trust that showed that areas where Universal Credit had been rolled out early showed four times as many people needing assistance from food banks.
One fifth of all households in Scotland get assistance from the UK government with housing costs, which are growing year on year far beyond wages. Since 2010, rents in Scotland’s big cities (where most private renters live) have increased by more than 30%, while wages have increased by only a third of that. Last year, rents went up by 3%, while wages fell by 1%. It’s a situation that sees private tenants get squeezed, and with universal credit, increasingly social tenants also.
A combination of council house building and real rent controls is sorely needed. Scottish Labour’s plan for a ‘Mary Barbour law’, which would cut rents and link rises to wages, is currently being drafted by civil servants and will be put to Holyrood later this year, with both the Greens and some SNP members hinting at possible support.