Leeds council tenants will be urged to bid for BIGGER houses

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LEEDS housing bosses are struggling to get people to apply to move into some of their larger properties since the onset of the ‘bedroom tax’.

Leeds city council is now bidding to “promote interest” in the kind of properties that are “experiencing reduced demand”, specifically two bed flats, multi storey flats, maisonettes and three-bed plus houses.

The authority is working on plans to encourage some people to bid for larger properties if they can afford the rent, and is promising to use “flexibility” to allow this.

It’s all part of a raft of measures being discussed as part of a new management structure, which saw the city’s three ALMOs dumped and housing services brought back in house by the council.

The changes, designed to ‘maximise’ council house stock, could also see some tenants who still have rent arrears allowed to move homes, although they would still liable for those arrears.

Neil Evans, the city’s director of environment and neighbourhoods, told a meeting of the new Housing Advisory Board that following the introduction of the bedroom tax, the authority has a number of larger homes of up to five bedrooms unoccupied. Larger flats in multi-storeys are also experiencing particularly reduced demand.

He said people “don’t necessarily want to bid” for certain properties, and the council faces a challenge to help people move if they want to.

A spokesman for Leeds City Council said: “We have noted a change in patterns of demand for council housing since the government introduced welfare changes in April 2013.

“Specifically, this has seen a reduction in the number of bids for two and three bedroom multi-storey flats and maisonettes and three bedroom houses across the city. This means the number of bids received for some properties have reduced, not that no bids have been received for the property.

“Demand for all property types continues to outstrip supply, with 26,000 households on our waiting list looking for housing. This is why we are committed to the largest council house growth programme in Leeds in a generation.

“Officers will continue to closely monitor the effects of the welfare changes on our customers and communities as well as the impact on our stock.”

A report presented to the housing advisory board said that current lettings policy does offer some “flexibility to allow an additional bedroom in certain circumstances”. It adds that in order to minimise costs and reduce turnaround times, the council “will seek to promote moves through mutual exchange in preference to moves through the housing waiting list”.

Coun Peter Gruen , the council’s housing and neighbourhoods portfolio holder, who chairs the new advisory board, said he was keen to reduce red-tape and bring a common sense approach to decision-making. “The philosophy I would like to instil is that housing managers can use their judgement,” he said.

The panel was told that future housing policy would be more proactive, with teams able to identify people who could benefit from a move and helping them do it, possibly - as previously reported in the YEP - with a ‘cashback’ incentive to pay for removal costs and decoration.

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