Bedroom tax drives £2m arrears increase in Merseyside
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Central Government and also in Communities, Finance, Housing
50,000 North East families hit by ‘bedroom tax’
Rent arrears have increased by £2.2 million in Merseyside in the six months since the introduction of the government's controversial bedroom tax.
The figures come from housing associations in the area that are working together to assess the impact of the coalition's welfare reforms.
The research shows spiralling rent arrears, as well as sharp increases in the number of empty properties and the time it takes to re-let homes when they become vacant.
Void properties have increased by 29% to 1,956 and the average time it takes to re-let a property when it becomes empty has increased from 28 to 38 days.
The result is a loss of rent to social landlords of £616,662 per month compared to £397,224 last year.
According to the National Housing Federation, the loss of income through arrears could help to build more than 125 houses in the region, which in turn would create 280 jobs or have an economic impact of over £10.5m.
Liz Haworth, executive director business transformation at Helena Partnerships, one of the housing associations who supplied data, said: “The so-called bedroom tax is pushing tenants into increasing debt in these already tough economic times, and rent arrears levels are rising across Merseyside.
“This is placing vulnerable tenants under increased pressure. There are simply not enough smaller properties available and social landlords are continuing to deliver services while facing a lower demand for larger homes, resulting in an increase in void levels.”
Alan Rogers, managing director of Cobalt Housing, another of the landlords taking part, said: “The government said the bedroom tax would free-up homes for people who need them, but it is having a worsening impact on the number of perfectly good three-bedroom properties that are standing empty in our neighbourhoods, such as in North East Liverpool.
“People are telling us they simply cannot afford to move into them because they’d be hit by the bedroom tax. The number of empty homes has increased and the amount of time it takes to let them has doubled in the space of a year.
“We’ve said from the beginning that we think the bedroom tax is deeply unfair and doesn’t work. Alongside other Merseyside housing associations, we’ve lobbied the government and urge them to work with social landlords and organisations like the NHF to come up with a better and workable solution.
“We’re delighted that the Labour party has recently announced its intention to repeal the legislation and we hope the government will do the same.”
Daniel Klemm, the NHF's North West external affairs manager, said: “Today’s figures from Merseyside are yet more evidence to show that the bedroom tax is pushing vulnerable families into debt.
“People can’t even move to smaller homes to avoid the bedroom tax because there aren’t enough smaller properties. Housing associations are working flat-out to help their tenants cope with the changes, but they can’t make one-bedroom houses appear out of thin air.
“The bedroom tax is an unfair, ill-conceived policy that is hurting Britain’s poorest families and it must be repealed.”
The 12 housing associations who submitted the data are Beechwood Ballantyne Community Housing Association (BBCHA); Cobalt Housing; Helena Partnerships; Knowsley Housing Trust; Liverpool Housing Trust (LHT); Liverpool Mutual Homes; Magenta Living; One Vision; Regenda Group; Riverside; Steve Biko Housing Association and South Liverpool Homes.