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“Legacy of recession” remains as Citizens Advice reports 26 per cent rise in house repossession problems during 2013

24 March 2014

National charity helped with 87,000 social housing rent arrears problems last year

As the UK emerges from recession, an increasing number of people are turning to Citizens Advice for help dealing with social housing debts and threats of repossession. During 2013, Citizens Advice volunteers and advisers dealt with nearly 87,000 problems of social housing rent arrears, a 10 per cent increase on 2012.  

The charity cites pressures including below-inflation wage rises, high food costs and a lack of affordable housing as contributing to the sharp increase in arrears issues.  The impact of welfare reform has also been a driving factor in the pressure on people’s finances. Of the charity’s clients affected by the Under-Occupancy Penalty from October to December 2013, 20 per cent of them were also behind on their rent.  

The new figures published by the charity today show that even as the economic situation has improved in the past year, problems associated with housing debt have risen significantly. The national charity’s Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, warns that the “legacy of recession” has left increasing numbers struggling to pay rent and on the edge of having their home repossessed.

In 2013, of 86,950 issues relating to housing arrears in the social rented sector, Citizens Advice Bureaux dealt with:

  • 10,702 problems about people at risk of having their house taken from them after falling into debt, a 26 per cent increase compared with a year earlier;
  • 39,827 problems about dealing with rental debts owed to a council or housing association, a 16 per cent increase compared with a year earlier.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, said:

“The shock of recession is fading but the effects of the downturn are still with us. Increasing numbers of people are on the edge of losing their home. Many people are struggling to manage their housing debts and prevent a stressful situation becoming an outright crisis.

“The steep rise in arrears, possession orders and help with housing debt suggests thousands cannot make ends meet and need help to keep a roof over their head. An urgent commitment to sorting out our woefully inadequate stock of affordable housing would help the supply of homes start to catch up with demand.

“It’s good news that things are looking up, but for many individuals and families the legacy of recession remains. The combination of squeezed wages, the impact of welfare reform, energy costs rising seven times faster than earnings, childcare costs going up 5 per cent every year, failed housing policy and a national economic calamity will not be erased overnight.”

Many households have struggled to make up the financial shortfall resulting from changes to Housing Benefit through reforms such as the Benefit Cap and Under-Occupancy Penalty. As controversial reforms to welfare were implemented during 2013, Citizens Advice dealt with nearly 14,000 enquiries about Discretionary Housing Payments, the pot of money made available to help soften the blow of cuts to support.

Notes to editors:

  1. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  2. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  3. To find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit You can also get advice online at
  4. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers
  5. Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.3 million clients on 5.4 million problems from October 2013 to September 2014. For full 2013/2014  service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
  6. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.