At a time when cynicism of landlords and authority is everywhere, a story reported in the Guardian this week shows how common sense and decency still sometimes prevail.
Knowsley Housing Trust is to re-classify nearly 600 family homes as smaller properties from 1 April. Knowsley says that demand for the 2 and 3 bedroom flats and maisonettes had dwindled and that they no longer provided suitable modern accommodation for families with young children. Rather than leaving them empty, the housing association had offered them to single people and couples without children.
However, many of these tenants had been faced with the prospect of paying extra rent from April 2013 when the government’s under-occupancy rules take effect (the so-called “bedroom tax“). Having taken legal advice, Knowsley is to re-classify these homes as smaller properties, reducing the rent accordingly and exempting the properties from the effects of the welfare change. The re-classification will cost the housing association £250,000 a year in rental income.
Under the new welfare rules, anyone living in social housing with one or more spare bedrooms would have a suffered a reduction in their housing benefit payments. They would either have to downsize or pay the shortfall themselves. The government reforms are designed to (a) save money and (b) free up larger homes for families on the housing waiting list.
The bold action by Knowsley means that where there is little demand for larger homes from families on the waiting list, existing tenants can stay put without having a reduction in their benefit. The government saves money through the decrease in rent, the housing association does not have to re-house tenants and those living in the re-classified properties can sleep at night without worrying about how to pay the rent come April.
Knowsley Housing Trust is a not-for-profit organisation which owns and manages around 14,000 homes in Knowsley, Merseyside.