Bill proposed to protect bedroom tax victims from eviction
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Regulation
50,000 North East families hit by ‘bedroom tax’
A consultation on a member's bill launched by a member of the Scottish parliament to protect bedroom tax victims from the threat of eviction has closed.
Jackie Baillie, Labour MSP for Dumbarton, is aiming to bring forward a proposal for a bill that will give social housing tenants hit by the controversial under-occupancy policy a no-evictions guarantee backed by law.
Baillie is additionally calling for the Scottish government to provide £50 million to social landlords to offset the impact on council and housing association maintenance and investment budgets.
Labour councillors in West Dunbartonshire have already implemented a no evictions policy for council tenants, but Baillie’s bill would create a blanket ban on evictions for everyone hit by the bedroom tax.
Baillie said: "If Labour wins the general election in 2015, we will axe the tax. But until then, it is the responsibility of the SNP government to mitigate the impact. Instead, they refuse to use the powers and resources they have to protect all Scots who are suffering as a result.
“My bill gives the Scottish parliament a chance to make a real difference to people’s lives by removing the threat of eviction for 2714 people in West Dunbartonshire and 1151 people in Argyll and Bute.
"It simply isn't good enough for the SNP to sit back and try to score political points from this hated and pernicious tax.”
However, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations has warned that the bill will have a detrimental impact on the tenants it is designed to help.
Maureen Watson, the SFHA's head of policy, said: “While we recognise this proposal is motivated by the best of intentions, we must stress that this bill will have a negative impact upon the very people and communities that it seeks to protect. This will exacerbate the already serious financial impact of welfare reform on housing associations and co-operatives across Scotland.
“We have lobbied consistently against the ‘bedroom tax’ since it was first proposed. We are continuing to make representations to the UK government at every opportunity, calling for this unfair and incompetent policy to be repealed.
“In the absence of repeal, we would welcome additional funding to mitigate the financial impact on tenants and social landlords. However, we need a sustainable long-term financial solution to protect the interests of current and future tenants. It is not simply about the lost revenue arising from rent arrears, but also all of the associated additional costs incurred by social landlords whilst seeking to support their tenants as best they can.
“Nine months in, the actual costs to landlords of the implementation of under occupation restrictions are becoming clearer. SFHA is currently working on some financial modelling to re-assess these costs, including the additional costs involved in advising and supporting tenants. We would welcome whatever additional financial assistance the Scottish Government could provide. However, in our view anything less than full mitigation of the impacts will not address the financial situation that housing associations and their tenants are now facing.”