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Council’s new measures to support tenants facing benefit cuts

Renfrewshire Council is so concerned about the impact of benefit changes that it will now consider reclassifying homes where tenants are penalised by Under Occupancy Rules for having a bedroom which can’t be used because of disability or medical requirements.

This means tenants can apply to have their properties re-classified so that an extra bedroom wouldn’t be classed as a ‘spare’ but judged as necessary where no suitable alternative accommodation was available.

They would then not face reductions to their benefits as part of the Under Occupancy Rules – dubbed the ‘bedroom tax’.

The move is part of a package of measures that Renfrewshire Council has approved to manage the impact of benefit changes on its housing service and tenants.

There will also now be increased priority in housing allocations for tenants who are worst affected by the bedroom tax.

Renfrewshire Council has already agreed that, where tenants are engaging with the Council, it will not resort to eviction to collect rent due to bedroom tax.

The council has now gone further and has agreed that tenants with bedroom tax debt can still be considered for a move to downsize to a property with no spare bedroom, which will improve their financial circumstances.

Consideration will also be given to ending the right to buy for one-bedroom council properties.  The council’s housing stock is now mainly consists of flats as a result of right to buy and so the restriction may be applied to any houses the council has left which are in short supply.

That would enable greater flexibility in allowing tenants to move to properties that are more suitable for their particular circumstances.

Councillor Tommy Williams, Convener of Renfrewshire Council’s Housing and Community Safety Policy Board, said:  “Welfare Reform is one the biggest issues to impact upon our area and Renfrewshire Council is generally regarded as being at the forefront of the approach councils are taking to try to help tenants, families and communities deal with the severe impact of the UK Government’s cuts.

“We are prepared to work with other social housing organisations and tenants’ groups to do all we can to give our tenants the help they need in these difficult times.

“I am pleased we taking steps to help those who are caught in the trap of the ill-informed Under Occupancy Rules.   These measures that we are now taking forward can make a real difference to those of our tenants who are on housing benefit and who are in an increasingly difficult position as a result of the benefit change programme.”

The proposals were agreed at a meeting of Renfrewshire Council on Thursday June 27.