This evaluation explored the impact of the first 20 months of operation of the Removal of the Spare Room Subsidy from April 2013 until November 2014. It examined the preparation, delivery and implementation of the policy changes by local authorities and social landlords. It has also explored the extent of increased mobility within the social housing sector leading to more effective use of the housing stock, and the extent to which, as a result of the RSRS, more people are in work, working increased hours or earning increased incomes. The research found that:
• Concerns around large scale reclassification of properties, or landlords knocking down walls to avoid the effects of the measure appear to have been largely unfounded; such activities have been very small scale.
• Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) have helped to alleviate the difficulties of some of the most vulnerable groups affected by RSRS, though this funding is by its nature short term and offers tenants little certainty over their future.
• Claimants’ responses to the reduction in their Housing Benefit have been mixed. Six months into the policy landlords reported that around a fifth had paid none of their rental shortfall, but by autumn 2014 this had fallen to one in ten. Eighteen months into the RSRS, only very small numbers of RSRS-affected claimants had been evicted.
• The most common way that claimants had responded to the RSRS was by cutting expenditure and paying the shortfall.
• 20 per cent of affected claimants said they have looked to earn more through employment-related income as a result of the RSRS, rising to 63 per cent of those who said they were unemployed and seeking work. However, their success has been limited. Only five per cent of claimants who were affected by the RSRS in 2013 said they had found work by the following year, and three per cent had lost a job.
• Overall around 45,000 RSRS-affected households had downsized within social housing by autumn 2014, as compared with 471,887 households who were still affected by the RSRS. Larger numbers were registered for moves than had managed to move by autumn 2014.
• This number of moves has nevertheless – in housing management terms - produced a considerable increase in downsizing within social housing, albeit from a very low base.
• Moves into the private rented sector have remained low in number and tenants were largely reluctant to move to the private rented sector because of affordability concerns and the difficulty in finding a deposit.
• In many areas major restructuring of the housing stock – such as selling off or remodelling larger homes, or letting homes as shared houses – would be needed to address the imbalance in supply and demand. This research found little evidence of these kinds of activities.