Rent arrears soar under bedroom tax
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Communities
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The amount of households in rent arrears soared by 21% between March and June, new research has revealed.
The findings, the result of joint research by the National Federation of ALMOs, the Association of Retained Council Housing and the Councils with ALMOs Group (CWAG), also found that the total monetary value of arrears rose by 16% in the same period.
Based on the trends of their survey, the three organisations - which represent over 1.3 million council households across the country - have calculated that nationally local authority rent arrears rose by £17.5 million in the first three months after the introduction of the bedroom tax.
Households actually hit by the government's controversial under-occupancy policy experienced a dramatic arrears rise of 59%.
Particularly hardest hit are tenants and landlords in the North of England where the proportion of homes deemed to be 'under-occupying’ increased on average by 104%.
The research also found that 24% of landlords had reported a rise in empty properties with the associated costs of dealing with these, and 42% reported a drop in demand for some types of properties as households struggled to afford larger homes in some parts of the country.
NFA policy director Chloe Fletcher said: “Given the rising cost of living, local authority spending cuts, and changes to the wider welfare benefits system, it isn’t surprising that councils and ALMOs are finding it more difficult to collect rent. What is alarming is the speed by which households affected by the under-occupancy penalty have struggled to maintain rent payments and the scale of unintended consequences of the reforms for housing providers in some parts of the county.”
ARCH policy adviser Matthew Warburton added: “The survey also confirms that most councils will not have enough smaller accommodation available in the coming year to enable more than a small proportion of affected tenants to downsize. This implies that arrears are likely to go on rising as tenants continue to struggle to pay.”
The research follows findings by Labour MP Jessica Morden that 51% of homes affected by the bedroom tax in Wales have fallen into arrears for the first time.