Study looks at the impact of COVID on social housing

Published by  Communications

On 12th Aug 2020

Tower block with many lights on against backdrop of city buildings and early night sky

Researchers at UEA are warning that the end of the eviction ban - a government scheme introduced to support renters impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic - may force a further widening of the gap between social housing supply and demand, leaving even more people in precarious situations. 

With the ban ending on August 23 and unemployment already rising significantly, making bills more difficult to pay, eviction may become even more common and put further demands on social housing, while supply will remain fixed in the short term.

Authorities with both a high mixed ethnic population and many working in struggling industries, such as transport, hotels and restaurants, may experience the highest strain on social housing demand. There are indications that COVID-19 is impacting the BAME population more significantly and finding a way to support those with larger families will be crucial.

Dr Emiliya Lazarova, associate professor in economics, and Pierre Bruton, a third year undergraduate student in the School of Economics, present their findings in a new blog.

While they use evidence from local authorities in London and Norfolk, Dr Lazarova and Mr Bruton argue more broadly that to tackle the looming social housing crisis effectively authorities need to work with local data and local stakeholders.

Dr Lazarova said: “Local authorities will face various challenges during this pandemic. It is now more than ever that they need to use data and evidence across local authorities to revolutionize their social housing allocation mechanism to better suit the needs of their local population by reducing waiting times and increasing the quality of the match.”

The authors draw on data they have gathered on the social housing sector at the local authority level over the last three years, for example on the type of housing available and how it is allocated, and link this with evidence on COVID-19 to see the impact on social housing.

They focus on two key factors that underpin the differential impact COVID-19 is predicted to have on different localities: the concentration of economic activity and the ethnic composition of the local population.

They find that certain local authorities will be disproportionately affected by COVID-19 as a result of industry concentration and ethnic composition. For example, London as a whole may see a greater spike in demand for social housing than Norfolk. Due to the stock of social housing, some authorities should be in a better position to support this increase in demand than others.

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