Monday, 16 September 2013

Not Quite a 'No-Evictions' Policy

According to 'Inside Housing' magazine, Nottingham City Homes and a number of Housing Associations have come up with a protocol for dealing with people subjected to the Bedroom Tax. The only provider to announce themselves so far is Asra HA but there is no extra information provided.

It should be emphasised that this is not a 'no-evictions' policy so it falls way short of what campaigners are asking for. Instead, it is intended to set up an agreement with the tenant and the landlord whereby, as long as the tenant is engaging with debt advice agencies and has applied for a Discretionary Housing Payment eviction proceedings will not go ahead. The fact that there will be renewed impetus for tenants to apply for DHPs is a plus at least. Mind you a side effect will probably that those in private renting will be told to go and whistle but, hey, nothing new there.

It's a start but there are still many gaps to fall through. Unfortunately, debt advisers cannot actually perform miracles. Most of the effectiveness of debt advice is identifying debts which are lower priority than the rent, e.g. non-secured loans, catalogues and the like and negotiating lower repayments freeing up cash to go on the rent. However, if you haven't got other debts then opportunities for freeing up income are limited. If a single person under 25 on Jobseekers' has to find £10/wk bedroom tax you're only going to have £46/wk left to live on. That's what's known as a challenge.

And to an old cynic like me who's been to countless meetings and watched agreement after protocol fall by the wayside it is difficult to raise too much hope. People will still be unreasonably refused DHPs, there will be issues of awareness among housing staff and of course, there will be people who are simply unable to find the money. But, as I say, it's a start.

Of course, what we need is for Labour to make a firm commitment to repeal the bedroom tax. This will give campaigners a stronger bast to argue for a true non-evictions policy as any pain will only be temporary. As yet, Labour is shying away from promising anything. The fact that Labour NCC is refusing to entertain the possibility of no evictions may suggest they have inside knowledge of what the party's plans are in this area.

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