The Wales Co-operative Centre discusses financial inclusion and its impact on tenants in the private rented sector
Jocelle Lovell, our Financial Inclusion Project Manager, discusses the projects work with the Private Rented Sector (PRS).
Last week, Shelter Cymru held a PRS conference, at the Liberty Stadium Swansea, and our Tackling Homelessness through Financial Inclusion Project, was delighted to be invited along to deliver a workshop.
Having attended many events that generally focus on what’s wrong with the PRS, it was very welcoming to see the sector being discussed in a positive light. Attendees included private landlords, lettings agents, the Residential Landlords Association, along with local authority housing & Supporting People teams, the Oak Foundation, the Wallich and a host of other support agencies and projects.
The event was a great platform for the Centre to share the learnings and best practice gathered over the past two years working with tenants in the PRS.
Findings from our pilot with Caerphilly County Borough Council found that out of 67 tenants visited;
- 67.9% stated they were aware that benefits are changing
- Over 50% had taken Department of Work Pensions or Job Centre Plus loan or used a door step lender in the past 12 months
- 62.5% had faced difficulty paying rent in the past 12 months
- 60% had faced difficulty paying gas/electric in the past 12 months
- 52.5% had faced difficulty paying for Food in the past 12 months
- 48.3% wanted budgeting advice
- 58.6% wanted debt advice
- Over 50% needed referrals to additional services including food banks.
Many of the tenants visited, either didn’t know what support they could access or didn’t like to ask for help. This was exacerbated if they had a bad experience in the past.
Having listened to the other speakers throughout the day, some of the key points which reflect our thinking stayed with me:
- Communication needs to improve between, local authorities, support services, landlords and tenants.
- Landlords and tenants are less aware of the support available and how it can be accessed
- There are some great examples of innovative working practices across Wales, but this is not consistent across all local authorities
- The need for landlord and tenant training
- More needs to be done when tenants are first housed into the PRS, early intervention can prevent crisis
- The PRS should be recognised as a strategic housing partner
- Some tenants want the flexibility of a short term tenancy, due to their transient nature and uncertainty of job security.
Simon White from Welsh Government, delivered an informative session on the Renting Homes Bill consultation and it’s implications for local authorities, landlords and tenants. Overall people welcomed the notion to simplify and restrict the number of tenancy agreements currently being used across the housing sector, but some were concerned that the changes may take away tenants flexibility to a short term tenancy. Due to the Centre’s work in the private rented sector and its Co-operative Housing Project, we have submitted a formal response to both the Renting Homes Bill and The Housing White Paper.