Welfare reform has brought many challenges to the housing sector, one being housing benefit for under 35s being restricted to the Shared Room Rate from April 2019.
Rooms4U, a subsidiary of Homes4U in the Vale of Glamorgan, was launched in December 2016 to assist the 520 single under 35s on the waiting list, following successful funding from the Crisis Help to Rent Programme. The aim of Rooms4U is to research and develop shared housing for The Vale of Glamorgan so that shared housing options can be tried and tested ready for the implementation of the LHA Shared Room Rate reduction in April 2019.
Applicants undertake a robust matching process and needs assessment, and are fully risk assessed to ensure that the most appropriate matches are made when properties or rooms become available.
Applicants must complete a tailored shared accommodation pre-tenancy workshop which is interactive and encourages participation whilst teaching the key skills required to manage a tenancy and understand what life in shared housing may be like. The workshop has been specifically designed to meet the needs of Under 35s including topics such as welfare reform, employment & training and housing options. In addition to this, the workshop covers tenant and landlord rights and responsibilities, financial responsibilities, and looks to address any support needs. Each session is tailored to individuals or groups, and one to one sessions are arranged where required.
Chloe Ambridge, Newydd Housing Shared Accommodation tenant said: ‘Rooms4U has helped me out a lot. They have supported me right the way through, I’m now able to maintain a tenancy because of the help I have received. I’m currently looking for work which didn’t even cross my mind, but now I am because of the opportunity I have been given.’
The project also links applicants and tenants in with financial and digital inclusion initiatives to reduce the impact of Universal Credit and assist with any issues or gaps in knowledge and understanding. Where applicants or tenants feel ready to engage with employment and training, they are supported by the Employability Officer who assists with CV writing, applications, job searching and securing training opportunities.
The project aims to identify the best model or models so that, come 2019, the partners within the project are able to provide adequately resourced services and good quality accommodation that meets the need of applicants and tenants.
The project has engaged with support providers, community groups, employment & training services and private landlords to promote the changes to LHA for Under 35s and through this has received more than 50 referrals.
The Partnership has developed 6 properties for Shared Accommodation use, enabling 13 Under 35s to now be out of homelessness and in safe, sustainable tenancies.
Rooms4U is the first project of its kind in Wales, and is leading the way in developing shared housing options for applicants. The project is taking on welfare reform head-on using an innovative idea that other organisations are intrigued and inspired by.
Find out if we’ve won the Capturing Creativity award at CHC’s One Big Housing Conference next week! https://chcymru.org.uk/en/events/view/2017-one-big-housing-conference