Local authorities must use cash to help those in most need
An additional £5 million made available to local authorities must be used to help tenants mitigate rent debt, a housing body has urged.
The Scottish Government said it will top up discretionary housing payments (DHP) to support tenants under severe financial pressure during the COVID-19 outbreak.
However, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) said it will be vital that the funds are used to support tenants in the social housing sector who are now struggling to pay their rent as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
Sally Thomas, SFHA chief executive, said: “We welcome the Scottish Government’s announcement of an extra £5m for discretionary housing payments.
“We know that many people are worried about the financial impact of the pandemic, and it is vital that there is support for costs, such as rent, to help tenants through the crisis.
“DHPs have traditionally been used to write off the ‘bedroom tax’, so we will await the full detail regarding how the extra funding can be used, but we would urge local authorities, which will administer the payments, to use them to support tenants who could struggle with the five-week wait for Universal Credit payment or other issues that are causing them difficulties in paying their rent as a direct result of the coronavirus crisis.”
The extra funding was announced by housing minister Kevin Stewart during the Stage 3 debate of the emergency Coronavirus (2nd) (Scotland) Bill. This takes the total funding from the Scottish Government for DHPs to almost £16m – as well as £60m funding budgeted to mitigate the impact of the ‘bedroom tax’.
Stewart said: “We all know that the wider impacts of COVID-19 are increasing pressures on households and leading to greater financial hardship, including paying rent. Many more people will now be on benefits for the first time and be subject to the UK Government’s benefit cap while others will have seen their household income decrease substantially and may be struggling to pay their rent.
“We have been looking closely at how to support people during the crisis and I am pleased to announce that we are increasing the amount we have made available for other DHPs - those that are available outside of our full mitigation of the bedroom tax - by a further £5m to almost £16m. This will support tenants who are now under severe financial pressures and where the UK welfare state is not providing the safety net it should.”