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A new report from End Furniture Poverty has found that only 2% of social rented properties are let as furnished or partly furnished, compared to 29% in the private rented sector.
The report comes as latest poverty figures in the report show that 49% of social housing tenants are living in poverty, and 63% of social renters are living below the minimum income standard, compared with 46.9% in the private rental sector.
These figures are pre-Covid so the expectation is that the need for support is now even greater and the numbers of people living in furniture poverty is even higher
The report lists a series of recommendations for housing providers:
- Appoint a ‘Furnished Tenancy Champion’ who will work to increase their organisation’s understanding and awareness of furnished tenancy schemes and how they can be delivered, including relevant Government policy, i.e. the eligibility of furniture as a benefits eligible service charge.
- The Furnished Tenancy Champion should ‘register’ with End Furniture Poverty to commit to fully explore the provision of furnished tenancies and to allow us to support them in their task.
- Survey their tenants to hear their views on the provision of furnished tenancies and End Furniture Poverty will again support them in this undertaking by interviewing tenants on their behalf.
- RSLs should see that the provision of furniture can have a positive impact on tenancy sustainability (which benefits providers).
- RSLs should also see furnished tenancy schemes as a way to improve the mental health, financial position, physical health, and social wellbeing of their tenants, rather than as a purely financial endeavour.
- Establish a furnished tenancy scheme and ensure that the impact of the scheme on the lives of their tenants, in addition to tenancy sustainability and financial elements, are measured and monitored.
It also has asks of government too:
- Provide clarity for social landlords with regards to the eligibility of furniture as a service charge, and the amounts that are permissible, including reassurance that furniture will remain as a service charge in the future.
- Provide financial support for social landlords with insufficient capital to enable them to establish furnished tenancy schemes and consider incentives for those looking to create schemes.
- Provide updated guidance for local benefits offices on the setting of service charge levels to ensure that there is a geographically even framework.
- Reintroduce adequate ring-fenced funding for Local Welfare Assistance Schemes.
- Provide updated guidance and support to local authorities to ensure local welfare provision is more geographically even and fair.
Claire Donovan, Campaigns Manager for End Furniture Poverty, said: “At End Furniture Poverty, we have long believed that furnished tenancies can provide a comprehensive solution to furniture poverty for some people, primarily those in receipt of housing benefit, as the cost of a furniture package is eligible to be covered by the service charge element.
“While we understand that social landlords face many challenges and that they work tirelessly to support their tenants, we have produced this report to help us to better understand how we can help them to extend that support and create furnished tenancy schemes.”
Speaking in the foreword for the report, The Rt Revd Dr David Walker, Bishop of Manchester and Chair of Wythenshawe Housing Group, said: “This timely and well researched report suggests one way in which social landlords can make a difference.
“The fact that some 29% of private tenancies are fully or partly furnished, compared with only 2% of social tenancies, should be in itself a clear indicator that we in the social housing sector are failing to tailor the services and products we offer to the needs of the types of households we are set up to serve.
“I commend it to senior executives, front line workers, and board members in social housing, and hope that together we can make an impact to reduce furniture poverty from the blight it is on so many lives."
You can read the full report here.