Under occupation in Social Housing

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    We are working with our Housing Department to prepare for the introduction of HB restrictions for claimants under occupying council houses.

    As with the rest of the reforms its all a bit indefinite at the moment but is anyone aware of any ‘official’ or semi official documents out there on the web that might give a little more guidance on what the Government’s plan is (if there is a plan).

    Assuming I have understood it correctly, the impact assessment explains that we will decide if they are under occupying using LHA size criteria but that the eligible rent restriction will then be by a percentage figure rather than to the LHA rate for the right size of property. This is regardless of the amount of rent being charged.

    That would mean there will always be a HB restriction for someone who is living in a property that is too large for their household even if the LA charges a reasonable rent for a property of the right size.

    Anyone seen anything more such as the percentage of restriction ?

    All help much appreciated.


    The figures that have been mooted for the restrictions were 13% for 1 bed (of actual HB award) and 23% for 2 bed… Those were mentioned in late June when Welfare Reform bill had its reading


    Cathy Payne of DWP said last week that they want the regulations on size criteria for working age claimants laid by April 2012. She spoke of two potential bands restrictions:

    – 10%-15% reduction for over occupation of 1 room
    – 20%-25% reduction for over occupation of 2 rooms

    The only potential exemption will be around disabled adaptations, although they’ve yet to clarify their thinking on this this seeing as a property adaptation can mean something as simple as a grab rail or something as extensive as provision of an extra bedroom.


    I’ve asked this before – genuine question. Who is under-occupying social housing apart from elderly council tenants wishing to see out their days in the house they’ve lived in for decades and in which they brought up their kids, or if that person has died, a single surviving son or daughter who still lived with them? Is an extremely small nut about to come under an extremely large, cumbersome and complicated sledgehammer?


    Theres a possibility that there will be some under occupation – for example on some council estates with hard to let properties.. (2 bed flats) occupied by single people, whilst there will not be thousands of these cases in each authority.. Going be a job to try and get some projections of possible numbers that are affected..


    The DWP EIA in March said the introduction of the size criteria in 13/14 would affect an estimated 670K HB claimants living in the social sector. “This is approximately 32% of all working age Housing Benefit claimants living in social housing.”


    Im amazed where they got the figure from.. but I suppose that it is possible ..

    Just wondering has any authority started to look at this yet?

    Julian Hobson

    I’ve just asked my housing colleagues for some indicative rents for 1bed through 5bed properties to see what reductions of the values suggested might look like. I would imagine that in some cases the reduced rent for HB purposes will be lower than the rent for a property of an appropriate size, although I don’t suppose that will worry the policy makers.

    We have done some analysis of underoccupation in our own housing stock and have 3,500 underoccupiers. Sticking my finger in the air suggests that it amounts to in excess of £1.6m extra rent to collect annually if nobody moves.

    Housing colleagues suggest that the problem will be greater (in terms of proportion) in the RSL sector because their allocations policies might be (or have been)less stringent than ours.

    We are looking at our allocations policy to take account of the changes in the Localism Bill and this particular HB policy change, not an easy task given the various outcomes we hope to achieve.

    This particular change could be one of the biggest threats to mixed communities we have ever seen. I can see whole estates reserved for families with large numbers of children, other areas solely occupied by pensioners and single people, other areas occupied by lone parents and couples with a baby or one child.

    We simply can’t change the location or mix of stock that we have got overnight, and will have to find a best fit simply to meet the need to save £1.6m but how much will that ultimately cost ?


    I think notwithstanding this.. it creates problems for authorities too.. in a number of cases are going to have to collect the shortfall in rents because of the restriction.. so could end up having to collect £10 per week from a large number of tenants – will have an impact on transaction costs


    Many people won’t be able to pay this shortfall leading to arrears. Many associations won’t let people transfer to another property whilst they have arrears, so they will be stuck with an every increasing level of debt. Nice to see this policy will have the desired result.

    Alex G

    To get back to andyrichards point on elderly tenants –

    how many of them will be too old / sick to move ?

    Maybe there will be an exclusion for tenants say over 65 ? and those on DLA ?

    Julian Hobson

    My understanding is that those under the HB(state pension credit) regs will be exempted. This is aimed fairly and squarely at working age.

    The issue for me here is not the oldies being expected to move but the fact that going forward we won’t have oldies underoccupying.

    Gone are the days when older folk that have had a need for HB whilst working age living out there days in the old family home.

    If you recieve benefit and your kids leave home you will downsize before you reach pension age.

    If you work until you retire without the need for benefit you can stay where you are when you retire and need benefit because you will then be exempted.

    Not very fair is it ?


    It’s a way of social cleansing I suppose. If you are well enough off to not need benefits you will be O.K. The benefit community will have to move out once their kids grow up, freeing up their homes for hard working families (oh, sorry, that was the last Government). God knows what bottom of the pile accommodation all these people are going to live in – after all they will be no better off in the private sector because of LHA caps

    John Boxall

    I’ve got round this problem rather neatly – or would have were I a Social Housing tenant.

    When I’m 65, my youngest will be 18……….

    There will be complaints soon in the tabloid press about all these old codgers starting second families so they can keep their Council Houses

    😀 😀 😀

    Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery. The blossom is blighted, the leaf is withered, the god of day goes down upon the dreary scene, and—and in short you are for ever floored.

    Wilkins Micawber, Ch12 David Copperfield


    That’s it John – Viagra are behind the whole thing. Ship them all off to university and start all over again – beats gardening doesn’t it?

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