Briefing on the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis on supported housing providers

26 August 2020

Summary of key findings


In August 2020, the National Housing Federation (NHF) conducted a survey of its housing association members about the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis on supported housing.

This briefing summarises the key findings from the survey and the potential implications for the supported housing sector.

Key findings

  • The coronavirus outbreak has led to increased staffing costs for more than half of the providers surveyed, as well as increases in cleaning, PPE and other costs for many providers.
  • Lost income from vacant properties increased for almost all providers surveyed, including all of the respondents who provide housing for older people.
  • Demand for some support services has increased, with an especially sharp rise in demand for short-term support services.

We received 31 valid responses, covering every region in England.[1] A mixture of large and small housing associations responded, with 55% managing more than 1,000 homes and 45% being small providers.

Implications for the sector

The survey results demonstrate increased demand for housing-related support services in response to the coronavirus crisis, especially short-term services aimed at supporting groups such as domestic abuse survivors, rough sleepers and people experiencing acute mental health crises. The coronavirus crisis has highlighted the crucial importance of these services in supporting vulnerable groups.

However, the survey also shows that supported housing providers are facing greater financial pressures due to extra costs and void losses associated with coronavirus. Long-term investment in housing-related support services would ensure that these services can continue to support as many people as possible and contribute fully to the social and economic recovery from the pandemic.

Summary of findings

  1. Half of the respondents reported increases in costs as a result of the pandemic. Most of these were increases of less than 10%, but some members reported larger increases of up to 29%.

We asked respondents whether they had faced additional staffing costs across a variety of areas including sick pay, employing agency staff to cover absences, additional training costs, redeploying staff, and costs associated with enabling staff to work remotely.

The graph below shows the response to the question: In total, how much more or less have you had to spend on the staffing costs listed above, compared to your expected costs, since the start of the crisis?

In addition, respondents were able to list other areas where they faced additional costs. These were free text so cannot be aggregated appropriately, but common areas were:

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) costs.
  • Additional security costs.
  • Additional cleaning costs.

Additionally, some made savings:

  • Reduction in travel expenses/mileage.
  • Savings from training.
  • Savings from furloughing staff.

Respondents reported a wide range of responses from local authorities to these extra costs, with 53% reporting no change in funding levels from local authorities, while others had seen small increases of up to 10% in their support contracts, one-off payments to cover PPE costs, or in a few instances larger uplifts in local authority contracts.

  1. The vast majority of providers reported increases in loss of income from vacant properties (void losses) as a result of the coronavirus crisis, with older people's services hit especially hard.

The table below shows the response to question: Have you experienced void losses above what you would have expected, due to coronavirus?

Short term schemes (n = 23)  Older people's schemes (n = 15) 

Other long-term schemes (n = 18)

Additional void loss  78% 100% 89%
Void loss has remained the same  13% - 6%
We have had less void loss 9% - 6%

Local authorities pausing nominations.Providers reported a range of reasons for this loss of income due to vacant properties. Common reasons across all types of provider were:

  • Government restrictions on house moves.
  • Providers' own concerns about safety within their schemes. 

In addition, providers of housing for older people reported not being able to let properties as normal, sadly due to coronavirus related deaths and family members not being able to come and collect their loved ones’ belongings.

  1. While demand for support services in long-term schemes did not change dramatically, demand for short-term support services rose sharply.

The graph shows the response to the question: Have you experienced change in demand for support services?

This seems to fit with the wider picture of a spike in domestic abuse and mental health crises during lockdown, as well as extra provisions being put in place to support rough sleepers. 

Find out more about our recovery work and how this might be helpful to you and your organisation on the link below.

[1] All questions were optional so not all respondents answered every question. Where we report statistics, we report in percentages of those who responded and the number of responses is indicated with “n = number”. Due to the relatively small sample (in terms of number of providers), no weighting is conducted.

Who to speak to

Suzannah Young, Policy Leader