Councils and social landlords in the West Midlands are joining together to support tenants hit by the Government’s welfare reforms.
Next year, the Government plans to cap household benefits to £500 per week, reduce the housing benefit to tenants with spare rooms and move benefit claimants onto Universal Credit, which will mean tenants are paid their monthly benefits directly.
Additionally, changes to non-dependent deductions – the amount councils can cut housing benefit by if a non-dependent lives with the claimant – are also affecting tenants’ budgets.
Landlords are especially concerned over the new under-occupation rules for the social sector, which will be enforced next April. It is believed that the changes will affect around 670,000 working age tenants. Those with one spare room, almost 80%, could lose £11 a week and those with two or more bedrooms face losing £20 per week.
About 60,000 working age claimants in the West Midlands will be affected by the under-occupation rules, losing an average of £14 a week, according to the Government’s impact analysis.
In response to the welfare reforms, seven of the largest West Midlands local authorities and nine social housing providers are coming together to agree joint action on the changes.
Chair of the West Midlands Making Best Use of Stock (WMBUS), Diane Middleton, explains: “Welfare reform is going to have a massive impact on the housing sector and potentially a distressing effect on residents. We are taking a broad vision on how the industry can work together to share and mitigate both the responsibility and results of these changes.
“We have a duty to protect our residents. To do this we intend to pool some of our housing stock, jointly identify where and what local and regional needs are, share best practice and communicate consistently to customers.”1
WMBUS is supported by the Chartered Institute of Housing’s (CIH) Best Use of Stock Team. It will host a summit on 21st June for the housing providers, private landlords and regional developers involved in the project.
The CIH’s Fleur Priest-Stephens says: “It’s really encouraging to see so many organisations present in the WMBUS partnership and I think it represents a great opportunity to make the best use of a scant resource. Sharing good practice and pooling resources is key to ensuring that housing providers can meet the challengers of sector reform.”1
The members of WMBUS are: Birmingham City Council, Sandwell Council, Coventry City Council, Walsall Council, Dudley Council, WM Housing Group, Wolverhampton Homes, Sandwell Homes, Solihull Community Housing, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, Midland Heart, Bromford Housing Group, Walsall Housing Group, Sanctuary, Viridian, Orbit and Accord.