Affordable Rent Strategy: Creating affordable and sustainable tenancies
We began consulting with our local authority partners about our Affordable Rent Strategy back in August 2011. Southern Housing Group has never said that it “intends to let affordable rented homes in new schemes only to working households”, as printed in an opinion piece in Inside Housing on 15 March 2013.
But the reduction in the levels of funding to support social housing particularly affects new affordable homes, causing their rents to increase towards market levels. At the same time welfare reforms are about to be introduced which will reduce the financial support available to families on lower incomes.
We believe it is important to ensure that households moving into our Affordable Rent homes can afford to pay their rent, sustain the tenancy and look after the property for the long term.
Recognising that receiving benefits and having a job are not mutually exclusive and household circumstances change, our eligibility criteria focuses on level of household income (to ensure affordability) rather than source of income. Our policy on Affordable Rent lettings is to prioritise working households, but not to exclude others who can also meet the eligibility criteria.
In the South East, the average income of those working households in our Affordable Rent properties is around £23,000. Over 90% of the people we are housing through Affordable Rent are coming from the private rented sector, where their previous accommodation was more expensive, lower quality, and had no discernible management service.
Ultimately, our Affordable Rent properties will amount to less than 3% of our overall housing stock by 2015, which totals around 26,000 properties across the south east. We continue to allocate around 90% of our annual lettings to new tenants at social rents. We believe this is a much more sustainable solution for families with limited means than the higher ‘affordable rent’ homes in new developments.
By delivering a range of homes and tenancies we are able to continue housing those in greatest need in keeping with the original aspirations of our founder Samuel Lewis.