Only 6% of social housing tenants have moved after housing benefit changes
BBC research has found that only 6% of social housing tenants who have had their housing benefits affected due to the under-occupancy changes have moved home.
On 1st April the benefit changes will have been in place for a year and BBC analysis of data from social housing providers suggest that 28% of tenants affected have fallen into rent arrears and only 6% have moved home. The government were hoping that the changes would free up larger homes and save taxpayers over £1m.
Prof Rebecca Tunstall, director of the centre for housing policy at the University of York, said: “There were two major aims to this policy – one was to encourage people to move, and the other was to save money for the government in housing benefit payments. But those two aims are mutually exclusive. The government has achieved one to a greater extent and the other to a lesser extent. To some extent it’s achieved some of its aims. It’s achieved an aim of making a saving in housing benefit for national government, probably slightly less than they’d originally hoped for. But there are other knock-on costs. There’s a social cost for tenants and a cost of having less efficient and fewer new homes. And you can imagine that those costs can start to mount up.”
Tenants who have been affected and not moved have been forced into making up the shortfall in their income, meaning extra pressure is being placed on them to make ends meet, adds Professor Tunstall.
Labour’s Chris Bryant, the shadow work and pensions minister, said: “Trapped with nowhere else to go, thousands of people have had no choice but to fork out an extra £14 a week. David Cameron’s government have pretended this was all about helping people who are overcrowded, but in truth the bedroom tax is a cruel, unfair and appallingly administered policy.”
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: “It was absolutely necessary that we fixed the broken system which just a year ago allowed the taxpayer to cover the £1m daily cost of spare rooms in social housing. We have taken action to help the hundreds of thousands of people living in cramped, overcrowded accommodation and to control the spiralling housing benefit bill, as part of the government’s long-term economic plan. Our reforms ensure we can sustain a strong welfare safety net, and we are providing an extra £165m next year to support the most vulnerable claimants.”
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