OF all the changes that the Government announced for its Welfare Reform Act, I think the potential impacts of the ‘bedroom tax’ have been the most controversial.
Due to come into effect in April 2013, the consequences of this new under-occupancy tax have seemingly not been thought through fully in terms of the ramifications it will have on social housing tenants.
Under the bedroom tax, working-age social housing tenants who are receiving housing benefit will have their payments cut if they are deemed to be under-occupying their home. They will have to pay, on average, an extra £40 per month if they have one spare room, £70 per month if they have two, or ultimately be forced to move to a smaller home. Even households where every bedroom is in use may be hit with benefit cuts because, under the strict new rules, children of the same sex will be expected to share bedrooms up to the age of 16.
So tenants and housing providers will be penalised for having the wrong type of house, with estimates from the National Housing Federation (NHF) saying our region could be massively hit with up to 50,000 families potentially affected.
Housing associations in the North East are warning they don’t have enough of the correct sized houses for the potential thousands of displaced tenants. Monica Burns, who is North East manager for the NHF said recently in the Press: “Housing associations in the North East have always been encouraged by government to build bigger homes so families could live in the same homes for life and didn’t have to move when they had children.
“Now those same tenants and housing associations are being penalised for having the wrong type of house.”
One of our members, Coast and Country Housing, is warning that a large number of its tenants could be driven into poverty as a result of housing benefit cuts for under-occupation, despite a lack of smaller homes.
Their chief executive Iain Sim has indicated they have a very real cause for concern about the impact it will have on their tenants.
I know I am not alone in thinking that there are many aspects of the changes that seem unfair, unjust and frankly hard to defend, that have either not been considered by Government or that they refuse to acknowledge. The impacts on the housing sector and its tenants, not just in this region, are vast.
For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 374 0233 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Catriona Lingwood, chief executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East.