‘24 years needed to re-house bedroom tax victims’
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities
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It will take 24 years to rehouse all of the single occupants hit by the bedroom tax, costing each individual £17,742 in the process, a new report has revealed.
The research, commissioned by East 7 (an informal alliance of nine East of England housing associations), and undertaken by Cambridge University’s Centre for Housing and Planning Research, shows that two-bedroom properties will be freed up too slowly to meet demand, even if single 'under-occupiers' were put at the front of the queue for one-bedroom accommodation.
And unless housing associations are given more freedom, the report claims that better use of housing stock will be hard to achieve.
Using the East of England as a template, the research found:
• A big gap between the number of tenants requiring one-bedroom homes (nearly 30,000) and the number of lettings available each year (less than 4,000). In practice, many tenants will pay to stay in social housing, spending on average £14 per week whilst they await a transfer.
• An optimistic policy of allocating a third of one-bedroom lettings each year for downsizers would take over 24 years to rehouse all the current under occupiers.
• A draconian policy of using virtually every vacancy for those needing to downsize to one-bedroom accommodation, at the expense of 82,000 households on the waiting list, would still take over eight years to rehouse all the transfers. Those in three-bedrooms needing to downsize to two-bedrooms would be cleared in just over two years.
• The uneven housing market in different local authority areas would lead to a post-code lottery of whether or not those needing affordable housing will be housed.
East 7's chairman, John Cross, said: “If the government is serious about wanting to achieve greater efficiency and better use of social housing stock, housing associations will need greater freedom in the sale of their assets. Only then can they rationalize their portfolios to best meet local housing and community needs.
"The sale of a single property, for example, could fund the building of multiple new social homes for rent and shared ownership, or dozens of adaptations to cater for those with disabilities, or multiple loft conversions to help tackle overcrowding problems."
However, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has claimed that things aren't as bleak as the report suggests.
A DWP spokesperson said: “People affected by the ending of the spare room subsidy will have a number of options available to them and downsizing to another property is only one of them. Many people will make up the difference in their rent themselves, possibly by taking up some form of work. Local authorities also have £150 million in discretionary support to help disabled or vulnerable tenants.
“During these tough economic times, paying housing benefit for spare rooms is not sustainable, and it’s only right we make better use of our housing stock when there are two million families on social housing waiting lists.”
The DWP added that those who choose to downsize could also move to properties in the private rental sector.
Additionally, the Department said that the government is investing £4.5 billion to bring in a further £15bn in private investment to deliver 170,000 new affordable homes by 2015, with almost 63,000 of these already completed as of February.