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Renfrewshire Council plans new measures to support tenants facing welfare cuts

Renfrewshire Council is so concerned about the impact of welfare changes that it is looking at reclassifying homes where tenants on benefits are being financially penalised for having a bedroom which cannot be used because of disability or medical requirements.

The change would mean that tenants wouldn’t be hit by under-occupancy restrictions.  The second bedroom would no longer be classed as a spare bedroom but would be judged as necessary where no suitable alternative accommodation was available.

renfrewshire council logo .JPGThe move is part of a package of measures that Renfrewshire Council is looking at to manage the current and future impact of welfare changes on its housing service and tenants.

There would also 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 may allow tenants with bedroom tax debt to still be considered for a housing exchange move 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:  “Renfrewshire Council is generally regarded as being at the forefront of the approach that local authorities are taking to try to help tenants, families and communities deal with the severe impact of the UK Government’s welfare cuts.

“We have prioritised this issue and are working with everyone involved to put in place practical measures to provide support on benefit, debt and welfare issues.

“Regarding the council’s housing service, we are bringing forward what we believe are practical and achievable proposals which could make a real difference for those of our tenants who are on welfare and who are in an increasingly difficult position.”

“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.

“We want our housing service to be best placed to meet the continuing challenges it faces through the impact of welfare changes.  I believe these proposals are a positive step in that process.”

A report on the proposals will be considered at a meeting of Renfrewshire Council on Thursday 27 June.