Bedroom Tax Tenants at Risk of Eviction

  • Council's assessments of the welfare cut show that tens of thousands of people in Britain risk being made homeless because of the bedroom tax.

    After an initial period of lenience, councils start to clamp down on rent arrears caused by the bedroom tax.

    This has resulted in thousands of people receiving letters with notification of arrears from councils and housing associations with the threat of possible eviction long term.

    Housing authorities have also confirmed that large numbers of tenants are unable to pay the extra rent caused by the tax.

    Bedroom Tax

    The government's bedroom tax statistics show that 600,000 people would be affected by the implementation of a tax of 14% of their housing benefit on those who have an unused bedroom, and 25% on those who have two unused rooms.

    These claimants were expected to lose an average of £14 per week from their housing benefit, and many councils have reported that tenants are now in arrears with their rent payments:

    The purpose behind the tax according to the government is to move people out of homes that they do not fully occupy to make room for families that are squeezed in to a house that is too small.

    However, False Economy, the trade union-backed campaign, collected data from 107 local authorities which shows 86,000 households have been forced to look for one-bedroom homes, of which only 33,000 have become available in the past year.

    They focused on one-bed properties as ministers had been forced to acknowledge last year that there was a "shortage" of such homes but pressed on regardless with the policy. A spokesman for False Economy said:

    The disparity between the demand for one-bed housing and a whole year's worth of supply is so severe that there is little hope of plugging the shortfall.

    Tenants in Arrears

    Queens Cross Housing Association in Glasgow had 291 tenants affected by bedroom tax, and 226 of these are now in arrears.

    More than a third of local housing association tenants in Nottingham are in arrears for their rent.

    Portsmouth City Council said that 300 people were now in arrears.

    Southway Housing Trust in Manchester have reported that 650 social housing tenants had seen an increase in arrears. 

    Southway Housing's contact centre manager Luke Benfield said:

    Our greatest fear is that, pressurised by the bedroom tax and eventually by universal credit, people will turn to loan sharks and door-step lenders and short-term loans to cover living expenses, trapping them in a cycle of debt.

    Letters have been sent out by some housing associations saying that tenants will be evicted if payments are not kept up, and in South Lanarkshire, the council leader was forced to apologise earlier this month after letters were sent to residents threatening eviction. Eddie McAvoy insisted that there would be "no evictions of people who engage with us and whose arrears are solely the result of the bedroom tax".

    Discretionary Housing Payments

    People who have disabilities have also been hit hard, and tenants have not found the discretionary housing payments to cover the loss they have and will be in arrears.

    Ministers have claimed that there will be no evictions as a result of the change in the law, but Ken Butler, welfare rights officer for Disability Rights UK, said:

    The amount of money that the Government has made available to fund discretionary housing payments is not sufficient to reach the shortfall.

    Research by the National Housing Federation found that if the £30m of discretional housing payments was distributed equally among every claimant of disability living allowance affected, they would each receive only £2.51 per week.

    David Orr, chief executive of the federation, said:

    For some the only option is to move into homes for private rent, which in many parts of the country are much higher than social rents, so the government won't make the savings it hopes.

    The bedroom tax is an ill-thought-through and unfair policy that will cause distress for hundreds of thousands of people forced to move from homes and communities in which they have lived for years. It must be scrapped now.

     


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