Liverpool landlord plans to cover penalty for residents who train or volunteer
Bedroom tax offer for training tenants
Liverpool Mutual Homes is planning to pay the bedroom tax for tenants who complete training programmes or voluntary activities on its estates.
The 15,000-home housing association, formed following the transfer of Liverpool Council’s housing stock in 2008, is one of a number of landlords across the UK looking at innovative proposals to reduce the impact of benefit reform on its residents.
Steve Coffey, chief executive of LMH, said its plans were at an embryonic stage - they have yet to be costed - but that it had been in talks with a small local charity providing skills and training. ‘One of the issues that this small provider has is drop outs [from the courses],’ he added. ‘If individuals see the course through, then we will fund an element of the bedroom tax that they would [otherwise] be hit with.’
From April 2013 the government will cut the social tenants’ housing benefit by an average of 14 per cent for those with one spare room and 25 per cent for two spare rooms -proposals the Department for Work and Pensions estimates will affect 660,000 working-age tenants (see box).
The change is popularly viewed as a ‘tax’ on poor households because the DWP’s impact assessment revealed the expected £500 million saving was based on the assumption that many households would not or could not move to avoid paying.
LMH will also consider paying the tax for households that carry out work - such as litter picking - on their estates. ‘We are asking “can we get people to do those activities on a voluntary basis and as a consequence of that write off an element of the bedroom tax?”,’ Mr Coffey added.
‘Do we want to be evicting people who haven’t got the money to pay? No we don’t. But can we get some value out of [paying the bedroom tax] through volunteering? It’s a something-for-something approach.’
Social landlords across the UK are devising ways of lessening the impact of the bedroom tax on tenants. A group of seven local authorities and 11 housing associations, under the name West Midlands Making Best Use of Stock Partnership, are pooling 150,000 homes to make it easier for tenants to move. Viridian Housing Association, which manages 19,000 homes, is also offering tenants cash payments of between £4,000 and £10,000, depending on property size, to downsize.
Bedroom tax: the estimated impact
annual saving by 2014/15
tenants facing a reduction of £20 a week or more