Victory Housing Trust ‘down-sizes’ some homes to help tenants escape bedroom tax

Victory Housing Trust chief executive John Archibald

Victory Housing Trust chief executive John Archibald - Credit: Archant

Victory Housing has down-sized some of its homes to help tenants hit by the new 'bedroom tax.'

The move is among a raft of measures aimed at supporting some 452 Victory households affected by cuts to housing benefit.

Under government changes which have just been introduced, a tenant's housing benefit is cut by 14pc if they are deemed to have one more bedroom than they need, and by 25pc if they are deemed to have two or more spare bedrooms.

Victory has looked at homes where one of the bedrooms is very small and has re-designated around 30 of them as having one fewer – in many cases allowing the tenant to escape the bedroom tax completely.

The trust, north Norfolk's biggest social housing landlord, says the new government measures hit about one in ten of its tenants.

'Central government sets the policies and makes the benefits and welfare rules, but it is at a local level where affordable housing providers and households have to try and live with the consequences,' said Victory's chief executive John Archibald.

'Unfortunately there is nothing we can do to change the framework under which benefits are paid, so we have decided we should do everything we can to support our residents who are facing the challenges of losing a chunk of their housing benefit.'

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Victory has also set up a five-strong tenancy support team, funded through savings made by reducing the trust's senior management team. It aims to help residents through the current welfare changes and any future challenges.

A year ago Victory also introduced an under-occupancy scheme which offered up to £2,000 to help residents move to a smaller property where their household had at least two empty bedrooms.

A spokesman said that at the same time, the vast majority of the 152 new homes being built for the trust were smaller, one- and two-bedroomed properties.

Debt advice and telephone advice lines, and an extra £20,000 of funding for the North Norfolk Skills Partnership were also being provided.

The funding would help the partnership expand its free skills training programmes, aimed at helping those on benefits back into work.

Mr Archibald added: 'Our message to any resident who is concerned or facing problems is: come and talk to us. We will do everything we can to help you manage the situation and provide as much support as possible to help you meet the very real challenges which these new rules have presented.'

? Victory figures show that 366 of its households under-occupy their homes by one bedroom, 85 by two bedrooms, and one by three bedrooms. Of these, around two thirds are on full housing benefit, with the other third on partial housing benefit.

The bedroom tax applies to households deemed by government to be under-occupying their homes and who receive housing benefit. It does not apply to pensioners.