Lateral Thinking Beats The Bedroom Tax

Since the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’ in 2013, demand for three-bedroom homes has dwindled, leaving many social housing landlords with empty properties on their hands as smaller families just can’t afford them.

But one Liverpool-based housing association has used some lateral thinking to get around the problem – they simply knocked through the walls to turn the three bedrooms into two!

Cobalt Housing saw demand for three-bedroom properties in Croxteth, Norris Green and Fazakerley fall dramatically, so they converted more than 80 homes from three- to two-beds.

And their innovative approach has put them in the running for a top national award at the finals of the UK Housing Awards 2016. The shortlisting also comes in recognition of their new handy-person service, which provides free support to tenants for everything from hanging pictures to decorating.

The service, ‘Cobalt Plus’, uses their in-house team rather than external contractors, saving £75,000 during 2014/15. This allowed Cobalt to support local work and training opportunities by taking on five apprentices.

Alan Rogers, Cobalt managing director, said: “We’re really proud to have made it to the finals of the awards, which recognise excellence in housing nationally. Welfare reform and the bedroom tax was the key driver for us to develop a new and innovative approach to making sure we are providing decent homes of the right size that people can afford to live in.”

“Customers are telling us they’re really happy with the converted properties and we are planning to make the same changes to over 100 more. Setting up Cobalt Plus has also allowed us to provide extra help to new tenants, save money that can be invested in homes and services, and create apprenticeship opportunities for local people.”

Cobalt is a finalist in the ‘Outstanding Approach to Repairs and Maintenance’ category at the UK Housing Awards, which recognise achievement in the social housing sector. The winners will be announced at a ceremony in London in April.