Glasgow & West Scotland

Renfrewshire Council moves to mitigate housing benefit cuts

Housing association homes
Image caption The new rules calculate housing benefit based on occupancy

A Scottish council is considering moves to mitigate the impact of controversial changes to housing benefit - dubbed the bedroom tax by opponents.

The UK government's changes mean many people deemed to have spare bedrooms have had their benefit cut.

Renfrewshire Council may seek to reclassify homes where tenants need additional bedrooms because of a disability or medical requirements.

The proposals would not affect a single healthy person with spare bedrooms.

Several Scottish councils have warned that they do not have many single bedroom flats and would find it difficult to find smaller homes for people who are prepared to move.

A number have also said they will not evict tenants who fall into arrears as a result of the housing benefit changes as long as they work with the council to try to find a solution.

Renfrewshire Council will discuss a range of measures on Thursday designed to help some tenants.

Rent arrears

The proposals could potentially benefit, for instance, a seriously ill single person who needs a second bedroom so a carer can stay over - or a couple who need two bedrooms because of a serious illness or disability.

However, the proposal would not affect a single person in good health who lives in a house with two bedrooms.

Other proposals by Renfrewshire Council include:

  • considering allowing tenants with rent arrears caused by changes to benefit to still be considered for a housing exchange move to a smaller property; and
  • ending the right-to-buy for one-bedroom council properties.

The council's housing stock now mainly consists of flats as a result of right-to-buy, so, the restriction may be applied to any houses the council has left, which are in short supply.

Councillor Tommy Williams, convener of Renfrewshire Council's housing and community safety policy board, said: ""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."

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