Housing provider airs concern over reforms

PROPOSED reforms to the welfare service could have a huge impact on housing associations, the chief executive of one Fife group has warned.

The UK Government is proposing changes to the way that the system works in an attempt to “create incentives” to encourage people into work.

These include making changes to the housing benefit system, including steps to no longer give tenants the opportunity to have their rent paid direct to their landlord.

Kingdom Housing chief executive, Alan McGuckin, said he felt the measures would lead to a big jump in arrears.

Mr McGuckin said: “It also means that we will no longer be able to help tenants claim any money they might have been entitled to.

“I also fear it could affect the private funding we have been successful in attracting in the past, because funders have always relied on the fact that housing benefit was paid direct to us as a measure of stability.”

Kingdom Housing has just over 3000 tenants and some 250 shared owners, and based on a study by the Scottish Federation of Housing Association, it’s estimated that 20 per cent of those will be affected by the welfare reforms.

Another problem Kingdom Housing face is a cut in the feed-in tariff for electricity generated by solar panels on its properties.

This is being cut by more than a half, meaning that the programme of installing panels on more than 100 properties a year will have to be abandoned.

“It will no longer be economic for us to do this,” said Mr McGuckin.

“These are all difficult challenges, but we are a mature organisation, we have been around for 30 years and we will cope.”

Following a meeting between Kingdom Housing and area MP Lindsay Roy, Mr Roy said it was “somewhat alarming” to hear the chief executive’s views.

‘’No-one would argue that the welfare and benefits system needs to be changed, but the new measures have been badly thought out and will have a serious impact on both individuals and organisations,’’ said the MP.

“This was very much a fact-finding mission and I was very impressed by Kingdom Housing’s record and determination to succeed in the future.

‘’I was particularly impressed by the joint working with Fife’s colleges and the outstanding commitment of Kingdom Housing staff.”