Social housing tenants moving on from homelessness should be offered a home, not just an empty box, writes Claire Donovan, Head of Policy, Research & Campaigns at End Furniture Poverty
Members of the Homes for Cathy alliance work tirelessly to end homelessness but at End Furniture Poverty we believe that there is a missing piece of the puzzle.
Homes for Cathy Commitment 7 says: “To ensure that properties offered to homeless people should be ready to move into.” We believe that this means they should be offered a home, not just an empty box.
Furniture prices have risen by 50%
The vast majority of people moving on from homelessness will have no furniture or household appliances, or the resources to buy the items they need. The cost of furnishing a home is even more challenging now as furniture prices have risen by 50% over the past 10 years.
End Furniture Poverty has been supporting social landlords for several years, helping them to understand the benefits of a furnished tenancy scheme and to prepare business cases for new schemes.
We have now been able to take it one stage further thanks to funding from the Fusion21 Foundation and have produced a Blueprint for Furniture Provision in Social Housing.
This step-by-step guide helps landlords to understand how a furnished tenancy can work, how to set the appropriate service charge, and how to ensure that they can support their tenants who could otherwise be living without essential furniture items.
It explains how the capital cost of the furniture can be recouped through the service charge element of Universal Credit making schemes sustainable and allowing landlords to help many more tenants.
The Blueprint also examines the different ways furniture can be provided, through more traditional furnished tenancies, and also separate furniture rental agreements. It provides information on operations, staffing, data strategy and performance measurement, case studies on existing furniture provision, and a full financial modelling section.
Devastating impact of living without essential items
Living without essential furniture items has a devastating impact on people’s mental and physical health, and their social and financial wellbeing. Tenants can build up huge debt if they turn to high cost credit to buy items, leaving them unable to pay their rent, and even leading to tenancies failing.
In these challenging times, other sources of support are becoming much harder to access as more local welfare assistance schemes are being closed by local authorities and the grant giving charitable sector are becoming overwhelmed with applications.
We explored the extent of furniture provision in social housing in No Place like Home, a report published in 2021 which showed that only 2% of socially rented properties were let as fully or partly furnished, compared to 29% in the private rental sector and looked at the impact living without essential furniture was having on tenants, and on tenancies.
Some social landlords have pots of funding to support tenants to set up their home but this approach can be unsustainable and as budgets face further pressures in the months ahead, furnished tenancies can provide an ideal solution.
Conversations with landlords across the UK over the past year have shown that interest in furniture provision is growing as organisations realise that tenants are struggling to furnish their homes and much more help is needed and we hope our Blueprint will help many more to get schemes off the ground.
End Furniture Poverty are holding a webinar on Friday, 18th November, 10.30am to 11.30am, to talk through the steps outlined in the Blueprint. Ian Fyfe, Furnished Tenancy Manager from Torus, and Paul Aitkin, Group Commercial Manager at Karbon Homes, will also be sharing best practice from furnished tenancy schemes. Email info@EndFurniturePoverty.org to register to attend.
If you are unable to attend the webinar on November 18th, we are happy to meet with any landlords to offer one-to-one support. Just get in touch to find out more.
We are facing the worst cost of living crisis in decades and tenants urgently need support. Furnished tenancies provide a sustainable solution with benefits to landlord and tenants.
Quite simply, why wouldn’t you consider it?
Together we can End Furniture Poverty.
Claire Donovan, Head of Policy, Research & Campaigns at End Furniture Poverty