Poster Paper: Social Outcomes for UK Tenants Receiving Housing Assistance: Experiences in a Decade of Changing Policy

Saturday, November 10, 2018
Exhibit Hall C - Exhibit Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Rebecca Benson, King's College London

In the United Kingdom, increases in both house prices and private sector rent have led to increased demand for social housing on one hand, and increased costs in providing social housing on the other. At the same time, various policy changes have lessened the housing assistance available. This research explores outcomes for individuals in households receiving housing assistance since 2008.

Social support for housing in the UK is primarily provided through two mechanisms. The first is by supplying properties, traditionally by local authorities but more recently by housing associations, on secure tenancies at substantially subsidised rents. The second is through the provision of housing benefit, which can be used to pay rent to either local authority/housing association landlords or to landlords in the private rental sector.

Policy changes have reduced the comprehensiveness of this safety net. Local authority housing stock has declined as social tenants were given the ability to purchase their homes at a discount over market rates. Housing benefits have been subject to various caps which in many areas priced beneficiaries out of local rental markets. Since 2013 the so called “bedroom tax” has reduced the subsidy households received if they were deemed to have too many bedrooms for their needs.

Overall, there has been an increased reliance on the private sector, as housing benefit recipients rent from private sector landlords and as local authorities discharge their statutory homelessness prevention duties by leasing properties from the private sector, often at high nightly rates. The private rental sector ranges in quality, with health and safety requirements variably enforced and tenants in receipt of housing benefits less desirable to many private landlords.

Although housing is known to be a determinant of a range of social outcomes, particularly health outcomes, surprisingly little research has addressed what, if any, affect these trends in social housing provision have had.

This research uses data from Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS) which has followed a large, nationally representative sample since 2008. I identify households within UKHLS in receipt of housing assistance, which number approximately 3,000 at each wave. Using these data, I explore two questions: 1) how have health, employment, and financial outcomes changed for these households over time? and 2) do these outcomes differ between individuals with private sector landlords and individuals with local authority or housing association landlords?

The first question is largely descriptive and is addressed by regressing the outcomes of interest against time within a multi-level model with individuals nested within households and households within regions. The second question also employs a multi-level model, but additionally attempts to get closer to a causal estimate by employing individual fixed-effects to identify changes in outcomes that are associated with changes in landlord type.