Reaction to benefit cuts that may force hundreds of North Lincolnshire people to leave their homes
Council officials are aiming to reduce the possibility of up to 1,700 housing association tenants being forced to leave their homes.
Almost a fifth of tenants in North Lincolnshire Homes' 9,700 homes could be forced to consider downsizing due to a wave of benefit cuts planned by the Government.
Planned changes to benefit payments next year under the Welfare Reform Bill will see a total household benefit cap of £500 a week.
Under-occupancy penalties for working age social housing tenants with spare bedrooms are also planned.
Some benefits currently being channelled to landlords will also soon be paid directly to tenants.
Mark Sherwood, North Lincolnshire Council's housing strategy and policy team manager, said the authority was looking to help limit the impact on tenants.
He said: "The Welfare Reform Bill could mean 1,700 tenants will need to move if they cannot afford the top-up for the rent.
"We don't want to get to the stage where the housing benefits don't pay for the rent and people get into debt.
"We are doing what we can to make sure nobody gets evicted.
"All the housing associations are contacting those individuals who might be affected."
Pete Woodcock, chairman of the New Westcliff Residents' Association in Scunthorpe, said he supported some benefit cuts but argued the planned changes would go too far.
He said: "The biggest thing I am against is paying money directly to tenants, rather than the landlord.
"There will be people on the estate who will spend the money on other things. This bill will create major problems for landlords and people will have to save money as they go along."
Lennie Pearson, a North Lincolnshire Homes tenant from Wootton Court in Scunthorpe, said: "It will be tempting for people to spend the money on other things.
"I disagree with the extra bedroom tax they are putting on. I think this will affect a lot of people."
North Lincolnshire Homes has set up a financial inclusion team to help tenants with the changes.
John Lawrence, head of housing management at the housing association, said: "Welfare reform is a hot potato at the moment, particularly for social landlords and their tenants.
"It could potentially have a devastating effect for some families who are already struggling to pay their rent – seeing their benefits reduced even further.
"Our job is to help people prepare as much as they can for the changes. We don't want people to panic, we want to help them stay in their homes but our message is clear. They need to look at what they can afford so that they don't start building up rent arrears."
The new under-occupation rules do not affect people of pension age.