Proposed government benefit changes are already scuppering hundreds of planned sheltered housing schemes, according to the nation’s housing associations
The National Housing Federation (NHF), which represents the sector, says nearly 2,500 units have so far been scrapped or delayed because providers face losing an average of £68 a week per tenant.
NHF chief executive David Orr said that up to 156,000 specialist homes could eventually be lost once housing benefit rates for social housing tenants are pegged to the same level as the private sector.
Orr said: ‘The impacts of the cap are real and immediate. The threat alone has caused the building of thousands of specialist homes for the nation’s most vulnerable to grind to a halt.’
Among the projects affected by the upcoming cap is a scheme for 55 care flats designed by BTP Architects for housing association Harrogate Neighbours.
BTP director Colin Savage told the Architects’ Journal: ‘It looks like all of the hard work to get this scheme through planning and building regulations could be a waste of time.
‘Fortunately the client paid our fee for work we have completed up to now. However, looking forward, our pipeline of work is not looking quite so buoyant now as we do a fair bit of sheltered housing work.
He added: ‘The government is making a mess – they will probably be back in 18 months’ time when they realise what they have done and need to get units built.’
Alex Ely, senior partner at Mae Architects, said: ‘Most projects have had their viability reviewed and, alongside construction price inflation, these policies make viability very tough.
‘This is classic government policy where the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.’
John Healey, Labour’s shadow cabinet minister for housing and planning, called on chancellor George Osborne to halt the benefit cap plans and consult fully with housing providers to safeguard specialist housing.