Only 2% of social homes come with furniture for tenants to use when landlords decide to rent them out, new research has found.
The report, No Place Like Home, found that just 2% of social rented properties are let as furnished or partly furnished, such as with floor coverings or curtains, compared to 29% of private rented homes.
Meanwhile, only 1% of social rented properties are fully furnished, found the Liverpool-based campaigners End Furniture Poverty.
The figures are based on 2018 data from Understanding Society, an annual survey of 40,000 households across the UK.
Claire Donovan, Campaigns Manager for End Furniture Poverty, said: “We have long believed that furnished tenancies can provide a comprehensive solution to furniture poverty for some people, primarily those in receipt of housing benefit, as the cost of a furniture package is eligible to be covered by the service charge element.
“While we understand that social landlords face many challenges and that they work tirelessly to support their tenants, we have produced this report to help us to better understand how we can help them to extend that support and create furnished tenancy schemes.”
Researchers carried out in-depth interviews with social housing professionals and tenants to explore the barriers to creating furnished tenancies and what impact the lack of furniture provision can have on tenants’ lives.
The report found that social landlords currently rely on a ‘patchwork of options’ to help their tenants acquire furniture, mainly through applications for crisis grants.
It also revealed a ‘lack of understanding and awareness’ among social housing providers as to how furnished tenancies work in practice, particularly relating to furniture’s eligibility as a service charge and the amount that would be approved by a benefits office.
The report concluded that the current approach to helping tenants obtain furniture is ‘significantly failing’, with many living without at least one essential item.
However, reducing furniture poverty is likely to have a considerable positive impact on tenants’ mental health, financial security and social wellbeing, while improving tenancy sustainability, it found.
The report advised social landlords to appoint a ‘Furnished Tenancy Champion’ to raise their organisation’s awareness of furnished tenancy schemes. Landlords should also survey their tenants to hear their views on the provision of furnished tenancies.
End Furniture Poverty has also called on the government to provide clarity for social landlords regarding furniture’s eligibility as a service charge, and to consider offering them greater incentives to establish furnished tenancies.
The Rt Revd Dr David Walker, chair of Wythenshawe Housing Group, commented: “This timely and well researched report suggests one way in which social landlords can make a difference.
“The fact that some 29% of private tenancies are fully or partly furnished, compared with only 2% of social tenancies, should be in itself a clear indicator that we in the social housing sector are failing to tailor the services and products we offer to the needs of the types of households we are set up to serve.
“I commend it to senior executives, front line workers, and board members in social housing, and hope that together we can make an impact to reduce furniture poverty from the blight it is on so many lives.”