Benefit cuts lead to delayed sheltered housing development, BBC reports

The BBC has reported that hundreds of planned new sheltered accommodation units have been delayed or scrapped owing to proposed cuts to housing benefits.

A number of housing associations have claimed the developments are no longer feasible. In particular, the planned development of flats for the elderly or people with learning disabilities are expected to be more expensive to build and run because they will require additional support.

Ministers have said they are currently reviewing the sheltered housing sector ‘to ensure it works in the best way possible’.

The National Housing Federation (NHF) has estimated that around 2,500 accommodation units have so far been scrapped or shelved as providers face losing an average of £68 per week per tenant.

In an interview with the BBC, David Orr, chief executive of the NHF, said: "There is real impact now. New homes for people with support needs - vulnerable people - that would be being built have been cancelled."

Housing associations which have confirmed they have had to delay or scrap the development of sheltered housing include: Southdown Housing in East Sussex, which has scrapped plans for 18 units for people with learning disabilities; Knightstone Housing in Somerset, which has delayed a complex of 65 homes for the elderly and 13 properties for learning-disabled people; Contour HomesIn Manchester, which has had to put on hold a scheme to build 36 units for the elderly; and Harrogate Neighbours in North Yorkshire, which has delayed the construction of 55 extra care flats.

The changes to housing benefits were announced in Chancellor George Osborne's Autumn Statement, where he pledged to bring housing benefit rates for social housing in line with the fees paid to landlords in the private sector. Osborne believed the move would generate savings of £225 million by 2020-21.

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: "We've always been clear that we value the work the supported accommodation sector does to protect the most vulnerable members of society.

"That's why we are carrying out a thorough review, working with the sector, to ensure that it works in the best way possible - which is what the NHF has asked for.

"We are also providing councils with £870m of Discretionary Housing Payments which can be paid to people in supported accommodation."