Evidence Review of the Impacts of UK Welfare Reform affecting Housing

The UK Coalition Government’s welfare reforms initiated in 2010, following Treasury Spending Reviews and the 2012 Welfare Reform Act, have had profound effects on society, not least through the major changes targeted at working age households and their housing costs. Reforms to Housing Benefit in the private rented sector and social housing, including the under-occupation charge (colloquially known as the ‘bedroom tax’) and the proposals for Universal Credit, among other changes, are thought to be having profound effects on low income families. This evidence review seeks to draw on what we know and do not know from UK studies to date in order to assist the Scottish Government  better understand the nature and consequences of welfare reform for housing in Scotland.


The aim of Government welfare reform is to incentivize work, simplify the system and control costs. From the outset a key focus of reform in this area has concerned Housing Benefit. Initially, reform was targeted on reducing the cost of the private rented sector bill (the Local Housing Allowance) before it turned to social housing (the under-occupation charge, non-dependent deductions, overall benefit bills and uprating limits). In the longer term, the Universal Credit will end direct payments to landlords and instead most tenants will be expected to make payments from their own resources (including benefits). Although launched in a context of fiscal austerity and deficit reduction, the DWP’s reforms also reflect a strong political commitment from the Coalition. The reforms are highly controversial, both popular in significant parts of the media but also rejected by many practitioners, anti-poverty campaigners and political groups, not least the Scottish Government.

Aims and Approach

The study is a rapid evidence review of academic, policy, practice, ‘grey’ and other literatures that have looked at housing dimensions of the welfare reforms starting in 2010. Who are affected and how, what the unintended consequences are and what the wider effects might be? Important dimensions include geography, tenure, household type, equalities groups and wider system and market effects. The study involved extensive digital and other search techniques, and also drew on previous work by members of the team.


Project Dates

January 2014 to May 2014


Scottish Government Communities Analytical Services