Cost-of-living crisis: Should housing associations play the role of more than just a landlord?

Liz Griffiths, Account Director, shares her views on the vital role of housing associations in the cost of living crisis. December 2023. 

With rising fuel prices paired with the cost-of-living crisis, many people across Wales are often faced with juggling how they will put food on the table, pay their bills, and keep their homes warm. So what help and support is available?

As a social housing landlord, do housing associations have a responsibility for the health and wellbeing of their tenants, as well as providing financial support?

According to Community Housing Cymru, more than 14,000 tenants in Welsh social housing received financial support in the first six months of this year – an increase from previous years – with most reporting rising energy costs, food, and debt as the main sources of concern.

Despite initiatives like the Winter Fuel Support Scheme – the warm home scheme, council tax rebates and £200 towards energy costs from Welsh Government, the general consensus is that these efforts might still fall short.

One of our housing clients, Taff Housing, advocate for wide ranging tenant support including wellbeing advice alongside practical guidance on how to juggle incoming and outgoing costs. It has established a year-round, in-house Money Advice service, offering advice and guidance on managing debt, rent, benefits, and additional funding sources. It also offers a floating support service to its tenants, enabling them to remain independent while coaching them on utility services, access education, and training and employment opportunities, as well as safeguarding their physical and mental health.

During the winter months, Taff also run a series of free wellbeing events, where they offer tenants hot food, a warm space, and the chance to meet, socialise and seek advice on any issues they might be facing in an informal and welcoming environment.

My view is that a housing association isn’t just a landlord but plays a key role within communities as a trusted intermediary. While they can’t single-handedly resolve the cost-of-living crisis or bring down the price of items, they can help tenants manage finances to ensure they last the month, while also signposting them in the direction of additional financial support. Something that is very welcome in the current economic climate.