Leeds offers incentive to ‘buy back’ bedrooms

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Leeds City Council is introducing a new cashback scheme to effectively “buy back” spare bedrooms and allow tenants affected by the so-called bedroom tax to move between properties.

The authority suspended its previous under-occupation incentive scheme – which saw more than 500 people move, and freed up 888 bedrooms – in the wake of a review following the welfare changes last year. However the authority has now earmarked £200,000 to help tenants move to free up desperately needed one and two bedroom homes.

Payments of between £500 and £1,000 to tenants “would incentivise a move”, a new report to senior councillors says.

Members of the council’s cabinet will be asked to approve the proposals at a meeting next week. The idea is to “maximise the use of council stock”, bosses say.

The report to be presented to the executive board next week says that by the halfway point of the 2013/14 financial year, 5,684 working-age “under-occupying” council tenants were affected by Housing Benefit changes.

Demand for one-bedroom properties in the city shot up, but demand for two-bedroom multi storey flats has fallen 45 per cent.

Councillor Peter Gruen, the executive board member for neighbourhoods, planning and support services said: “Since the introduction of the government’s welfare changes, we have seen the demand for one-bedroom properties increase dramatically and the demand for two-bed multi story flats has decreased.

“We want to make the process of moving between properties flexible and ensure our tenants are all living in the right size property for their needs. If this scheme is put in place we will be able to maximise the use of council stock by releasing high demand properties and encouraging moves to properties which are experiencing lower demand.”

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