A CHARITY has called for help in its mission to make private rented housing more affordable for tenants on benefits.

New research from Citizens Advice West Oxfordshire (CAWO) suggests the average two-bedroom property in the Witney area costs about £1,184 per month - £350 more than the monthly local housing allowance of £834.08.

It comes as Publica, a company that delivers shared services to four district councils including West Oxfordshire, launches a new scheme incentivising landlords to accept people from its housing waiting lists or on benefits.

Three forums being held this week will enable private landlords and housing agents to discuss how to make private rented properties more affordable.

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CAWO chief executive, Teresa Archer, echoed the need for different parties to come together.

She said: “It’s about working with agents and everyone understanding the issues, like more people needing lower rents. For example, how can we dispel some of the myths about people receiving benefits?”

A CAWO survey earlier this year found dozens of people in the district had difficulty finding private housing, with some saying their benefits did not cover their rent.

The charity’s research in March 2018 showed the average two-bed property within 10 miles of the OX28 area on property website Zoopla cost £1,212.40 per month.

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A repeat search on May 2 this year found 100 fewer properties listed, but with an average monthly rent of £1,183.95.

Ms Archer stressed this number was a ‘snapshot’ and could change each day.

The charity has supported the Tenant Fees Act, which comes into force in June and stops tenants in private rented housing paying letting fees.

Chris Mitty, a director of an Oxfordshire letting agent, argued CAWO’s figures could be skewed by expensive rents in Witney town centre, with cheaper prices outside the town.

He fears the Tenants Fees Act could ‘backfire’, with landlords increasing rents to ‘absorb’ the money lost from banning fees.

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He said: “Banning letting fees will force rent up and housing stock down. Where they really need to look is the people that really need long term support.”

Last Tuesday, 2,667 people were on West Oxfordshire’s housing waiting list.

Publica’s scheme uses cash awarded by the government’s Private Rented Sector Access Fund to provide deposits and rent advances to potential tenants.

It will also help landlords bridge the gap between the local housing allowance and market rates and advertise private properties on the councils’ Homeseeker Plus system.

West Oxfordshire’s forum is at the district council from 5-7pm on Thursday.