Intensive efforts from community-based and other housing associations have resulted in significantly slowing the rise in arrears since COVID hit, a new report from the Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations (GWSF) has found.
GWSF said that both councils and housing associations were hit with huge arrears in April, at the height of lockdown, but that since then, housing association arrears have risen more slowly than for councils, with housing association arrears actually reducing in September and October.
As a special adjunct to its usual annual Charter report, GWSF asked Scotland’s Housing Network (SHN) to carry out an analysis of some of the monthly data being collected by the Scottish Housing Regulator, with arrears being a key indicator covered.
GWSF director David Bookbinder said: “The SHR data has been extremely useful, but because the first available arrears figure is from 30 April, not 1 April, the extent of the growth in arrears hasn’t been clear. We asked SHN to calculate an arrears figure for 1 April, and from this we can see the immediate losses that occurred in that month.
“Throughout the initial lockdown and since then, we know our members, in common with associations across Scotland, have worked incredibly hard, in challenging circumstances, to contact tenants who are facing financial difficulty and help them make Universal Credit claims wherever necessary. UC may be a flawed system but it’s still the primary source of support with paying rent, and working with people to make a claim helps both them and the association.
“There is still data to come for a further five months of 20/21, so we don’t know what will happen to arrears in that time. But at the moment, HA arrears haven’t yet reached the 2019/20 figure and so there remains some hope that the damage can continue to be limited, through associations’ intensive work.
“The scale of the arrears difference between councils and associations merits further examination. It has been suggested that this may partly be down to it sometimes being more difficult for council staff to access IT systems when working from home.”