Thousands of families are finding themselves unable to pay their rent three months into the bedroom tax scheme.
Since the beginning of the bedroom tax three months ago more than half of families it affected now find themselves in debt. There are now calls from the country’s housing groups for a retreat from the scheme.
The National Housing Federation said that a survey showed that more than half of their 51 biggest members found their residents affected by the bedroom tax. 32,432 could not pay their rent between April and June reports the Guardian. For a quarter of these people it was the first time that they had fallen behind with their rent.
The NHF’s chairman, David Orr, is said to say that these figures could mean “over 330,000 households [were] already struggling to pay their rent and facing a frightening and uncertain future” when he addresses the federation’s national conference on Thursday.
Orr will be repeating the criticism made earlier this month by the UN housing official Raquel Rolnik and is predicted to go further by arguing that ministers have miscalculated the number of home available for tenants to downsize into. This is due to 180,000 ‘under-occupying’ two bedroom homes but only 85,000 one-bedroom homes became available last year.
Orr is expected to say: “Housing associations are working flat-out to help their tenants cope with the changes, but they can’t magic one-bedroom houses out of thin air. People are trapped. What more proof do politicians need that the bedroom tax is an unfair, ill-planned disaster that is hurting our poorest families? There is no other option but to repeal.”
Liam Byrne, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “The jury is now in. David Cameron’s hated bedroom tax is pushing a generation into foodbanks and loan-sharks. This government seems determined to stand up for a privileged few, but stands idle while hundreds of thousands of our neighbours are pushed into debt from which they may never recover.”
The government have said that it was ‘monitoring carefully’ the policy and had £190m available to help ‘vulnerable tenants’. A DWP spokesperson questioned whether it was right to extrapolate long-term trends from such an “early stage of policy”.
“The removal of the spare room subsidy is a necessary reform to return fairness to housing benefit. Even after the reform we pay over 80% of most claimants’ housing benefit – but the taxpayer can no longer afford to pay for people to live in properties larger than they need. It is fair that people contribute to these costs, just as private renters do.”