Wednesday, 01 April 2015

Consortium hopes to protect rental income by helping tenants move

West midlands landlords pool homes to avoid bedroom tax

Eighteen social landlords in the west midlands have formed a consortium to help tenants avoid the bedroom tax.

Seven local authorities and 11 housing associations have agreed to pool at least 150,000 homes to allow tenants easy access to properties across the region.

The West Midlands Making Best Use of Stock partnership hopes this will enable people to find a house with the exact number of bedrooms they need to avoid penalties for under-occupancy. The consortium hopes this will result in fewer tenants falling into arrears due to a shortfall in their benefit. Each organisation will keep its existing lettings policy.

Changes to housing benefit introduced by the Welfare Reform Act from April 2013 mean working-age tenants claiming housing benefit with a spare bedroom will lose on average £14 each week, or £25 for two spare bedrooms.
Helene Brooks, under-occupation project officer at 19,000-home Walsall Housing Group, said her organisation estimated it had 3,476 under-occupiers who would receive a combined £2.4 million reduction in benefit payments if they remain in their homes.

‘The partnership was set up last month in response to the changes to housing benefit and the recognition that each provider in isolation won’t be able to deal with the problems that are going to arise and the threat to our businesses and customers,’ she said.

The partnership hopes to start operating by the end of this year and will seek to recruit more small providers at a stock-use conference in Sandwell later this month.

Lord Richard Best, who campaigned against the bedroom tax in the House of Lords earlier this year, said: ‘Large scale voluntary housing transfer [organisations] tend to have lots of three-bedroom properties because that’s what councils used to build, but younger housing associations have built more smaller properties. Co-operation and rationalisation of stock are good things to be part of.’

The members of the partnership are: Birmingham, Sandwell, Coventry, Walsall, Solihull, Wolverhampton and Dudley councils; and WM Housing Group, Wolverhampton Homes, Sandwell Homes, Solihull Community Housing, Midland Heart, Bromford Housing Group, Walsall Housing Group, Orbit, Sanctuary, Viridian and Accord.

It follows a similar scheme set up in March involving 20 housing associations across Merseyside.

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