'Under-occupied' tenants in North Lincolnshire face benefit cuts or getting lodger
Hundreds of tenants of North Lincolnshire Homes face having to take in lodgers to compensate for the loss of welfare hand-outs, it has been revealed.
Housing association chiefs estimate welfare reforms to be introduced next April will affect around 3,400 of their 9,746 tenants.
But around 1,500 tenants of working age will be financially worse off because of new rules covering under-occupation of their homes – and the Telegraph understands that in some cases, they are now being told they may have to start taking tenants in.
Under the so-called bedroom tax, benefit will be slashed for tenants of working age if they are deemed to have a spare bedroom.
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Government experts estimate the 1,500 identified house holders stand to lose £16 a week on average.
Of the association's total number of properties, more than 7,000 have two or more bedrooms.
Figures reveal that the under-occupied homes cover 494 tenants in two-bedroom properties, 993 in three- bedroom, 58 in four-bedroom and two in five-bedroom homes.
A dedicated financial inclusion team has now been recruited to give worried householders advice on how to maximise their incomes and at the same time keep their homes.
That advice in many cases is to take in lodgers.
Currently around two-thirds of the association's tenants rely on housing benefit to pay their rent either in part or in full.
John Lawrence, the head of housing management, said: "There may be cases where it is clear, because of cuts to housing benefit due to under occupancy, a tenant will not be able to pay their rent – and taking in a lodger may be an option for some."
But he insisted that nothing would be forced on residents.
"Our job, as a housing association, is to help people prepare as much as they can for the changes," he said.
"We don't want people to panic, we want to help them stay in their homes, but our message is clear that they need to look at what they can afford so that they don't start building up rent arrears.
"We are currently writing to the 1,500 or so tenants who we know to be under-occupying to help them consider their options.
"We have also set up a dedicated financial inclusion team to help our customers prepare for the changes."
"We are also working closely with our community development team whose initiatives include workshops to help young people sustain tenancies and find work."
The association is also offering to help hard-up families by introducing shopping-on- a-budget training courses in the new year.
During the two-hour sessions in Scunthorpe, families will be taught how to make their money stretch and seek out bargains.
For more, call 01724 279900.