A POTENTIAL homelessness crisis in Oxford is just around the corner, a councillor has warned, after proposing a motion to stamp out discrimination against tenants in receipt of housing benefit and Universal Credit.

The cross-party motion was proposed by Labour councillor and housing campaigner Imogen Thomas, and seconded by the leader of the Green group on the city council Chris Jarvis.

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.

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The unanimous vote on the cross-party motion follows a major rally over the weekend in Oxford organised by community union ACORN against a number of local letting agents known to operate on ‘No DSS’, 'no benefits’ or ‘no Universal Credit’ policies, which the Oxford Mail has previously 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 benefits.

Ms Thomas, who said she got into local politics to fight for people's right for decent and affordable housing, highlighted that the move from the council is an important step towards eradicating discrimination in the private renting sector.

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The councillor said: "It is vital that the voices of tenants are heard in town hall.

"The pandemic has dramatically impacted livelihoods and more people are claiming benefits, but added to this, we are seeing people seeking new housing now that the eviction ban has been lifted.

"Families live with the constant fear of being kicked out with barely enough time to pack their bags, let alone hunt for a new house in a rental market that is increasingly unaffordable.

"When tenants claiming benefits do find good properties, it is all too often that they are being turned away with no good reason, and despite ruling making DSS discrimination unlawful we still see landlords and letting agencies turning these people away."

In addition, Ms Thomas praised ACORN for amplifying the voices of tenants and exposing the extent of the problem and the covert tactics used by landlords and letting agents.

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In passing the motion, the council called on the city's cabinet to explicitly prohibit discrimination against welfare recipients as part of its landlord licensing scheme, ensure that the city’s welfare reform team proactively looks out for and acts upon reported cases of discrimination and establishes a formal tenants’ forum to be consulted on housing decisions, which will meet biannually.

The motion also calls on the city's housing and homelessness panel to monitor action taken to address discrimination against welfare recipients.