An official report has found that over half of tenants who are affected by a housing benefit cut in England are struggling to pay their rent.
Over 300,000 tenants have been affected by the spare room subsidy rules were in arrears five months after changes came into effect in April last year, reports the BBC.
Analysis by the Department for Work and Pensions analysis has found that few tenants have managed to move to avoid the penalty. The DWP has said its overall housing benefit changes would save billions of pounds; however housing campaigners have said that the figures show why people are calling for these changes to be removed.
A new interim report carried out by the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research and Ipsos MORI has looked at the initial impact of the policy.
The report – the first official study into the change – found most people were paying by cutting back on household essentials, and a quarter had borrowed to pay their rent.
During the first five months, 41% of affected tenants had paid their additional rent in full but 59% were struggling – 39% had made some contribution to the additional rent but 20% had paid nothing at all.
David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, which campaigns for affordable housing, said the government’s policy remained “flawed”.
He said: “Time and time again it has been shown that the bedroom tax is pushing people into rent arrears and people have been unable to downsize because of a lack of smaller properties. Now the figures from the DWP prove it is not working, surely now it is time for the government to admit they got it wrong and repeal this ill-thought policy.”
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: “This department is delivering some of the biggest welfare reforms in over 60 years, designed to return fairness to the system and we are on track to make the £6bn savings we had previously set out. At the same time we are helping to make sure our housing benefit reforms have a transformative effect on the lives of those who in the past were faced with a system which trapped people into cycles of workless and welfare dependency. The scaremongering by those opposed to our welfare reforms – in particular our housing benefit reforms – has been proven to be without substance, and we are already seeing the effects of people moving into work.”
Labour’s Rachel Reeves said: “Today the government admitted that over half of those paying the bedroom tax are in housing arrears. This shows the bedroom tax has made life harder for thousands of people. David Cameron should scrap his cruel and costly tax on bedrooms – if he won’t a Labour government will.”
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