Call to delay 'bedroom tax' for six months
Published by 24publishing for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Communities, Legal, Local Government, Universal Credit
Landlords in Northern Ireland want bedroom tax delay
Housing associations in Northern Ireland want the Government to delay its controversial ‘bedroom tax’ by six months because the gap in primary and secondary legislation could be as little as a week or two.
The country has recently secured a concession to the Government’s welfare reform agenda which will see tenants continue to have their housing costs paid directly to their landlord.
Now landlords across the country want the 'bedroom tax' – which will see housing benefit cuts for tenants with spare rooms – delayed for six months.
The measure will affect around 32,000 social households in Northern Ireland.
In Great Britain, the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations (NIFHA) argues that there will have been a gap of over a year between their Welfare Reform Act being passed in March 2012 and the introduction of the under-occupation penalty in April 2013.
This, says NIFHA, provides certainty for social landlords to notify tenants and provide appropriate support. However, in Northern Ireland, the gap between primary and secondary legislation being passed and the ‘bedroom tax’ being introduced could be as little as a week or two.
In addition, to lessen the impact of the £17m annual loss in housing benefit social tenants in Northern Ireland are facing as a result of the penalty, NIFHA believes a significant increase in the £7 million funding for Discretionary Housing Payments is needed.
Cameron Watt, Chief Executive of NIFHA, said: "NIFHA supports the principles behind welfare reform of simplifying our benefits system and making work pay. We also greatly value the flexibilities the Social Development Minister has secured in how Universal Credit will operate in Northern Ireland and the six month postponement to its introduction to allow proper time to prepare.
"However the bedroom tax is unjust and has the potential to cause real hardship to many low-income families. Unfortunately there appears to be very limited scope to minimise the impact of the bedroom tax without breaking parity.
"Housing associations and the Housing Executive are actively publicising the likely changes to tenants and providing advice and support. However the information sharing arrangements that will allow housing associations to accurately pinpoint and help affected tenants can’t begin to operate until our Welfare Reform Bill becomes law.
"With the bedroom tax resulting in significant cuts in benefits for over 30,000 households, tenants and social landlords must have a fair amount of time to fully prepare.
"That is why we are calling for the six month postponement of the Universal Credit to be extended to the under-occupation penalty.
"Also, with social tenants affected by the bedroom tax facing a Housing Benefit shortfall in excess of £10 million annually, the budget for Discretionary Housing Payments must be significantly increased to minimise hardship."