Bolton at Home becomes first association in country to make 'no homelessness' pledge over 'bedroom tax'
BOLTON at Home has become the first housing association in the country to introduce a “no homelessness” policy to help ease the burden of the so-called “bedroom tax”.
The organisation — which owns 18,000 properties across the borough — has pledged that no-one in Bolton will be left without somewhere to live because of the new controversial under-occupancy charge.
The policy means any tenants evicted from their home due to rent arrears accrued solely as a result of the charge — or “bedroom tax” as it has been branded by opponents — will be “guaranteed” a move to another home, as long as they co-operated to address their issues with arrears.
The move follows several months of discussions with Bolton Council, and housing chiefs stressed it was not a “no evictions” policy as had been demanded by campaign groups.
They said the policy will not apply if tenants are evicted for arrears that are the result of other factors, such as deliberate non-payment.
The under-occupancy charge means that tenants have money deducted from their housing benefit if they are in properties deemed too big for their needs.
And despite only being introduced in April, of the 2,236 Bolton at Home tenants hit by the charge, more than 75 per cent are already in rent arrears.
To be considered for alternative housing under the new policy, tenants will receive a “one-time only” offer of a property that meets their needs.
There is a major shortage of one-bedroom properties in Bolton and around the country, and Bolton at Home said it would work with the private rented sector and Bolton Council to bring in suitable accommodation where possible.
Bolton at Home chief executive Jon Lord said: "With the bedroom tax we deliberately held back to see how it panned out rather than do anything based on supposition.
“We believe this is ground-breaking in terms of having this type of no homelessness policy.”
Ian Ankers, director of housing services at Bolton at Home, said the landlord would also consider “reclassifying” homes of disabled tenants struggling to pay if their properties were fitted with disabled adaptations, meaning it could reclassify a bedroom as a “storage room”.
But he stressed that having a no evictions policy would place financial strain on other tenants.
He said: “For people that make an effort to pay we offer a raft of support services.”
Cllr Peel, Bolton Council’s executive cabinet member for regulatory services, said: “Bolton at Home is to be applauded and I think others around the country will pick this up.”
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