PEOPLE will gather tomorrow at the largest housing rally yet in Oxford to protest against letting agents and landlords who discriminate against tenants receiving benefits despite current UK equality laws.

A year after the first landmark court ruling declaring housing benefit discrimination in England unlawful, renters are still being locked out of properties across the city.

Organised by the local branch of the community union ACORN, the rally follows several others against a number of local estate agencies known to operate on ‘No DSS’, 'no benefits’ or ‘no Universal Credit’ policies, which the Oxford Mail has reported on.

‘DSS’ refers to the Department of Social Security, a Government agency that was replaced by the Department for Work & Pensions in 2001, but it is still used to describe prospective tenants who would be paying their rent by means of Housing Benefit or Universal Credit.

According to ACORN, tactics used by estate agencies can range from explicit policy to more covert methods such as exclusionary insurance company rules, unnecessary requests for a guarantor or sidelining DSS renters when presenting landlords with potential tenants

In addition to support from residents, ACORN’s campaign has received cross-party support, and the rally will be attended by councillors and trade union representatives.

Acorn spokesperson Niamh Simpson explained who these practices target: “People who receive universal credit or housing benefits are ordinary people and often key workers like nurses, shop workers, delivery drivers.

“They are our families, carers, our parents and grandparents, and include people living with disabilities, or with young dependents.

“These letting agents would rather see ordinary working class individuals and families sleep on the streets or on sofas than in the readily available rooms in their properties.

“And that is why we, as a community, are coming together to demand an end to these unlawful practices.”

Ms Simpson urged people to stand in solidarity with their neighbours at the rally starting at 1pm on Saturday at Manzil Road Park to put an end to the housing discrimination in the city.

Ending housing discrimination is even more prevalent now as the onset of Covi-19 has seen a 98 per cent increase in the number of Universal Credit claimants in the UK, according to the latest Government figures.

Despite this, a September 2020 report by this newspaper found that only four of 43 Oxford properties listed on popular renting site Spare Room were marked under ‘housing benefit considered’.