Centre supporting private sector landlords and tenants to consider financial inclusion
Earlier this week, the Wales Co-operative Centre’s Tackling Homelessness through Financial Inclusion (THFI) project team joined housing professionals and landlord representatives at the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) PRS Summit.
Delegates gathered at the Future Inn, in Cardiff Bay, to consider the role of the private rented sector (PRS) in Wales, at a time when it is experiencing a period of substantial change.
Following an introduction by Welsh Government on the ‘Homes for Wales’ White Paper, that will underpin the first Housing Bill to be published later this year, the PRS is well and truly on the top of the agenda for local authorities, housing associations, private landlords and increasingly institutional investors.
The THFI project fits into this by identifying that financially excluded tenants, living in PRS, are at a greater risk of becoming homeless. In the context of forthcoming welfare reform and the move to Universal Credit, THFI is engaging with landlords and their tenants to promote the use of financial inclusion to mitigate the impact of these reforms.
In practice, THFI has been successfully promoting the role of credit unions through the payment of Local Housing Allowance, directly into a credit union rent account, on behalf of vulnerable tenants. This leads to a longer, sustainable, tenancy, which is in the best interests of the tenant and the landlord.
THFI Project Manager, Jo Lovell, and Financial Inclusion Officer, Lucia Gillespie delivered a workshop, to a full house, as part of the PRS Summit, asking people to consider the best way to support tenants in the PRS. A lively discussion identified that:
a) The needs of PRS tenants are not fully met throughout Wales.
b) A person-centred approach is needed and an understanding of the tenant’s history.
c) Mapping of support and advice services will help landlords and tenants alike, to understand where they can turn to.
d) Communication between landlords, tenants and local authorities is vital.
A person-centred approach has been the key to the success of a pilot project with Caerphilly Council, Smartmoney Credit Union and PRS landlords. Here, the scheme has been used to provide financial services to the ‘unbanked’ and to ring-fence Housing Benefit to protect PRS tenants.
Working in partnership with the council tenants, visits have been carried out, leading to the collection of data, to help gain an improved understanding of tenants circumstances in order to signpost them to vital support. Following 21 tenant visits, more than a third have signed up for a rent account or gone on to open main stream bank accounts. The Council is so pleased with these results, that there are plans to roll out this work to many more tenants in the coming months.
Jo Lovell, THFI project manager said: “It is a myth that all tenants on benefits are bad tenants. By working, proactively, and supporting the use of the rent account can help to both safeguard your rent and maintain a long and successful tenancy.”