People living in social housing may fall into fuel poverty because of the coalition government cuts to benefits and increased rents according to the NLGN (New Local Government Network).
The coalition recently announced a 10% cut in the council tax benefit budget, and have now also said that anyone claiming jobseekers allowance for 12 months will have their housing benefit cut by 10%. At the moment there are around 3.1 million social housing residents who receive means tested benefits in England; this includes 2.7 million who receive housing benefit.
Along with many landlords the NLGN has issued a warning that over one million households may be affected by the cuts and this combined with further plans to charge 80% of private sector rent for new social housing tenants means there could be tough times ahead for a huge number of people.
A household is considered to be in fuel poverty if they have to spend over 10% of their total income on gas and electric bills just to achieve a basic level of warmth. NLGN’s report claims that under the new changes, the estimated 628,000 households currently classed as in fuel poverty is more than likely to double. The increase in fuel poverty throughout the social sector is now outpacing that in private housing.
To reduce the amount that those living in social housing pay in energy bills, the NLGN is calling on the coalition to build upon its flagship Green Deal policy, which works by offering a loan of up to £6,500 to encourage households to take out some energy efficiency improvements, which will in the long run be paid for by the savings on energy bills.
NLGN is also asking Chris Huhne the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, to bring in new powers straight away which would allow a tenant to insist their landlord invests in energy efficiency measures such as roof insulation. They believe a property owner with landlord insurance will increase the energy rating of the home if he gets help from the scheme immediately.