Bedroom tax forcing previously paid-up tenants into arrears
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Communities, Finance
50,000 North East families hit by ‘bedroom tax’
Shocking new figures appear to suggest that social housing tenants who previously kept up with their rent payments have been forced into arrears since the introduction of the widely condemned bedroom tax.
Data supplied to Jessica Morden MP by social landlords in Newport and Monmouthshire show that 55% of tenants affected by the under-occupancy policy have fallen into arrears since its inception on 1 April.
The research found that arrears have collectively shot up by £197,445.71 across Monmouthshire Housing Association (MHA), Melin Homes, Charter Housing and Newport City Homes.
The government's controversial policy - which has been blasted as "unfair and unworkable" by NHF chief David Orr - sees social housing tenants that are deemed to be under-occupying their homes receive cuts of up to 25% to their housing benefit.
Jessica Morden, Labour MP for Newport East, said: “We are talking about people who were just keeping their heads above water, but ensuring their rent was paid.
"This tax is pushing them over the edge. So far, housing associations are taking the financial hit, but that cannot continue forever. It seems this terrible tax will not only mean homelessness will go up, but it will also weaken the financial ability of housing associations to reinvest in upgrading their houses and buying new homes.
"Ministers have argued that those affected would be able to find the extra money, these figures starkly show this is not the case.”
Monmouthshire Housing Association told the MP that 386 of its tenants had been affected by the bedroom tax.
On 31 March, 165 of the group were in arrears but by the middle of June, 168 others had fallen behind with their rent - a 76% rise since the beginning of the policy.
Likewise, Newport City Homes reported that 1,916 of its households have been hit with the tax.
On 1 April, the housing association had 652 tenants in arrears, but as of 7 August the figure had risen to 1,344.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: "It is simply not affordable to pay housing benefit for people to have spare rooms. Reforms to housing benefit in the social sector mean families receive help for the number of bedrooms they need, and these are exactly same rules as in the private sector.
"But we have given councils £190m this year so vulnerable claimants get the help they need during these welfare reforms."
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