"We need all councillors, in particular the Labour councillors, to come out and categorically say they will not let anyone be evicted by this Tax" Sally Griffiths, Broughton resident.
To ease the burden of the Bedroom Tax, Labour councillors have been in discussions with the city's two main social housing providers, Salix Homes and City West, to ask them to consider counting some of their stock as having fewer bedrooms.
Echoing a move that has been taken by Leeds City Council and Knowsley Housing Trust in Merseyside, re-classification of properties is a tact that is gradually becoming more common as some local authorities begin to take an active stand against the ConDem Governemnt's Tax and put their residents first.
Labour councillors say that they are currently in talks with the two providers to consider re-designating some of their homes. But Salix and City West are stating that it would be economically unviable, while Salford's own Assistant Mayor for Housing, Gena Merrett, says it's not "straight forward".
At the moment 2,967 City West and Salix households are said to have been hit by 14% or 25% cuts to their housing benefit for having what the Government deems to be a `spare' bedroom. If both providers accept the calls to re-designate some of their properties it could ensure that some of the affected tenants, all already on sparse budgets, are safeguarded from having to stump up the substantial rent shortfall.
It would also safeguard them from mounting arrears and potential evictions if they are unable to pay, a fear compounded by the fact that Salford has a severe shortage of homes with fewer bedrooms for people to move into to avoid the tax.
Gina Reynolds, Labour councillor for Langworthy, whose ward is one of the hardest hit by the tax, believes re-designation should be a common sense approach for Salix and City West.
"People are going to get in arrears with this tax" she explains "I think in the long term social housing providers are going to end up suffering and that it would be in their interests in re-designating their properties. We don't know what's going to happen at the moment but we're going to put pressure on them to do that. They are in discussions with the City Mayor and we're hopeful that they will change their minds."
Yet Gena Merrett, the Assistant Mayor for Housing and councillor for Swinton South, was more cautious about pursuing the reclassification of properties.
"We have asked them to look into reclassifying some of their properties however it's not simple and straight forward" she said "If they reclassify properties as smaller ones this would reduce the rent amounts they can get for them so it wouldn't be long before that impacts on the quality of houses. It's about striking a balance."
City West and Salix confirmed that talks were ongoing with council members, however alleged that they may not have funds to be able to consider re-classification as a long term solution helping those affected by the tax. This is despite both companies awarding hundreds of thousands of pounds in salaries and emolument packages to directors and executive officers according to their last accounts.
In the 2011-2012 financial year City West Housing Trust paid its highest director £152,153, excluding pension payments. Altogether, five City West directors got paid over £100,000, while the company also made a surplus of £11.278million…
…Yet when asked what it thought of potentially re-classifying some of its properties no mention was made of potentially using some of this money to cover rent losses and maintain the quality of their properties.
City West's Director of Communities and Neighbourhoods, David Cummins, said: "As a not-for-profit organisation we rely largely on income from rent to fund the services we provide to improve communities and support our customers.
"Reclassification of properties is one of a number of options that we have explored with our partners" he added "however, we would only expect this to be viable in exceptional circumstances."
Salix Homes, whose executive officers were paid £435,000 between them in salaries and pensions in 2012, confirmed that it would be making a decision on re-classifying later in the month, adding that it might not have sufficient funds to cover the cost of reclassification.
"There are significant financial implications of reclassifying homes which will have a knock-on effect on the amount of money which we can reinvest into the services that we provide" said a Salix spokesperson "Any reduction in the number of bedrooms in a property reduces the rent that can be charged for that property. This reduces the amount of income generated and therefore the amount of money available to be spent on repairs, improvements and services. Salix Homes is a not-for-profit organisation so any reduction in income does not affect turnover in the sense of profit but may affect staffing levels and services to tenants."
Residents hit by the Bedroom Tax cautiously welcomed the potential plans.
Maria Brabiner, who lives in Lower Broughton and has been struck by a £14 per week bill, said "I'm really taken aback. I really, really hope that Salford Council is talking about this and that its happens because my second room is a tiny box room so it would help me out."
Sally Griffiths, who also lives in Broughton, was equally pleased but believes more action needs to be taken by the Council heads.
"It would be excellent if this happened but we need all councillors, in particular the Labour councillors, to come out and categorically say they will not let anyone be evicted by this tax" she explained "I don't think enough is being done at the moment and our councillors need to do something to protect their people. People are being frightened in their own homes and also confused about what exactly is going to happen."
Little Hulton and Walkden Against the Bedroom Tax protested at the Little Hulton offices of City West in Little Hulton District Centre today. Read the report- click here
Words by Chloe Golover
See also Salford Housing Fat Cats Revealed – click here