A growing number of housing association tenants in Exeter are facing the threat of eviction due to rent arrears, according to the city’s Citizens Advice Bureau.
The number of repossession actions listed at Exeter County Court by housing associations has risen by 16 per cent so far this financial year, the charity said. It follows warnings from the charity and affordable housing providers about the impact of welfare reforms on tenants who rely on benefits to pay their rent.
But on a brighter note, more than three quarters of people facing repossession across all housing sectors have avoided losing their homes where a CAB adviser has assisted them. Exeter City Council has provided financial support for the service.
Steve Barriball, chief executive of Exeter Citizens Advice Bureau, said: “We have at least one adviser present at the court each Tuesday morning to advise and advocate for clients.
“So far this financial year there have been 424 cases listed for repossession, an overall decrease on last of 0.2 per cent, or one case.
“However, the cases taken by housing associations have increased by 16 per cent. There was an average of around 16 cases listed across all housing sectors each week.”
Earlier this year, the head of the South West’s largest housing association warned tenants were facing increasing financial hardship as a result of the controversial bedroom tax.
Paul Crawford, chief executive of Exeter-based DCH, formerly Devon & Cornwall Housing, said an increase in rent arrears was expected and questioned whether cutting benefits for households deemed to be under-occupying a property would save the Government money in the long run.
Mr Barriball said: “Low interest rates have helped some households with mortgages. However, these figures suggest that for families living in housing association properties they are being hit disproportionately by factors such as the increasing cost of living and increases in energy costs are hitting household budgets.
“Changes to council tax benefit and the so called ‘bedroom tax’, as well as other changes to the welfare system, are hitting low income households the hardest.”
On the advice service at the county court, he added: “I am grateful to the workforce of the bureau for providing this essential service to people facing repossession. We are also grateful to Exeter City Council for funding this service.”