Universal Credit = Less Housing Security

line drawing of face with pinched eyebrows
Insecure photo by Wilmot is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Repossession rates are up amongst people who receive social assistance in England. Repossession in England is equivalent to eviction in Canada and the US. This rise in repossessions is being linked to changes in social assistance programs.

Iain Hardie, a PhD candidate at the University of Glasgow, decided to find out whether the introduction of Universal Credit had an effect on housing stability. Universal Credit is the name given to social assistance reforms in the the United Kingdom, which merge five assistance programs into one. Implementation began in 2013, and is scheduled to roll out over 10 years.

Hardie used court decision data and the phased introduction of Universal Credit to make his analysis. He also took differences in rents, unemployment rates and wages into account.

One of the reasons this research is so important is that overall, the average rate of repossessions in England went down between 2013 and 2018. In the country as a whole, the rate of repossession claims went from 40/100,000 to 30/100,000 during this period. However, this obscured the pattern amongst clients receiving Universal Assistance, which Hardie has illuminated with his research. As the new Universal Credit rolled out, and the number of clients receiving the Universal Credit grew, their rate of repossession claims went up.

The repossession research demonstrates that the introduction of Universal Credit is linked to less housing stability. Hardie has penned an article as well as a research paper to report his methods and his findings, which substantiate claims that the Universal Benefit is undermining housing stability among people who have the fewest resources in the country.

Why is this report important?

The research demonstrates the benefit of investigating the impact of program reforms. For decision makers, policy makers, and advocates, the report discusses the potential cascading effects of Universal Credit, notably the additional harms faced by the people who receive Universal Credit and the potential for the number of people experiencing homelessness to rise.

The methodology used will be of interest to policy analysts.

The article is available at the UK Collaborative Centre For Housing Evidence: How Universal Credit Is Weakening The Welfare System’s Housing Safety Net

The research paper is published under a creative commons license, and thus also available. See at Cambridge University Press: The Impact of Universal Credit Rollout on Housing Security: An Analysis of Landlord Repossession Rates in English Local Authorities