We’ve had a number of reports lately of social housing providers and councils across the country taking steps to save their residents from the Bedroom Tax and to support them to challenge cuts. Some of those are detailed in this great Guardian article, which looks at four of the main ways that Landlords have been working to support their tenants. These are:
- By redesignating properties as having less bedrooms
- By working and communicating with local campaign groups to exchange information
- By adopting a ‘no eviction’ policy
- By buying more ‘suitable’ properties to ensure residents don’t need to move out of the area
Brent Housing Action is planning an open letter to Social Landlords operating in Brent, which will ask them to stop unhelpful and frightening practices and to adopt some more progressive methods of working with, not against, their tenants. We need to decide what we are asking social landlords in the borough to do, and we need your help. In addition to the above, other points we could ask social landlords to sign up to include…
- Retracting unhelpful, mass produced letters warning residents of possible cuts, and committing to only contact residents where there is a clear and real threat to their benefits or home
- Asking landlords to join residents in ‘direct action’ – ie closing up unused bedrooms in ‘underoccupied’ homes and supporting those who refuse to pay bedroom tax on those rooms
- Redesignating rooms not used as bedrooms with the correct use (ie ‘study’ or ‘storage’) to limit bedroom tax demands
- Setting out clearly their policies with regard to arrears caused by the bedroom tax (and likely to be caused by the overall benefit cap) including levels at which evictions may be triggered and the length of time tenants might be in arrears before landlords will look to evict.
- Setting up resident groups to allow tenants to join together in resisting cuts
- Providing free access to benefits advice
- Providing free access to legal support for tenants challenging benefits rulings
- Supporting tenants to access work, and developing schemes to employ residents within social landlords for enough hours to make them ineligible for the cap (more than 16 hours per week)
- Supporting tenants to take in lodgers, and setting out clearly policies and freedoms for tenants to do so
*UPDATE* We’ve been talking about the letter further during meetings – to see where we’re at, check out the meeting notes.
We’d like your views on how you feel your social landlord or others in Brent could help local residents, and which of the above you feel would be helpful (or unhelpful). Once we have an agreement the most helpful steps social landlords could take we will send an open letter to each organisation and to the local papers. Please let us know if we can count on your support.