The Devolution of Housing Benefit and Social Security: Rebalancing Housing Subsidies in Scotland

By: Mark Stephens & Janice Blenkinsopp, Heriot-Watt University, and Kenneth Gibb, University of Glasgow
Published: March 2015

The Devolution of Housing Benefit and Social Security: Rebalancing Housing Subsidies in Scotland

This report examines the existing Housing Benefit system in Scotland and makes recommendations for its improvement in the light of the Smith Commission's report on devolution.

The research recommends the following:

– Housing subsidies should be, over time, shifted away from the demand-side and towards the promotion of investment in new and existing housing (while protecting losers in the transition).

– A housing element should be incorporated into mainstream means-tested benefits, and gradually increased.

– Housing Benefit should be redesigned in order to give people more choice and responsibility over their housing.

– Means-tested benefits, including Housing Benefit, should be devolved, subject to sustainable financial arrangements.

– The Scottish Parliament should be given control over a range of taxes, or assigned revenues from them where they cannot legally be devolved, together with sufficient borrowing powers to ensure that these wider powers are sustainable and that the Scottish Government and Parliament are accountable for their decisions.

– As a consequence of the complementary review into Council Tax, the Scottish Government should use its powers to extend the use of its tax base in land and property.

– In the short-run, Housing Benefit should be excluded from Universal Credit in Scotland.