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Bedroom tax: Housing association rent arrears laid bare in the House of Commons

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Bedroom tax: Housing association rent arrears laid bare in the House of Commons

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government

Bedroom tax: Housing association rent arrears laid bare in the House of Commons Bedroom tax: Housing association rent arrears laid bare in the House of Commons

Housing associations are facing mounting problems with rent arrears as a direct result of the bedroom tax, the House of Commons was told yesterday.

Labour MPs Julie Hilling (Bolton West) and Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) revealed how social landlords in their constituencies had seen a sharp rise in arrears due to the controversial under-occupation policy.

Hilling said: "Bolton at Home tells me that its arrears stand at £1.9 million, even though it has a 97% collection rate and has employed an additional 11 people to increase collection and support tenants in financial difficulty.

"The Minister’s policies are jeopardising his business model on social housing and the ability to build new houses and improve current stock. Can he honestly say that his policies are working?"

Communities Minister Stephen Williams replied: "According to the information I have, the number of people affected by the social size criteria has fallen across Bolton, from 3,215 households when the policy started in May 2013 to 2,775 now, so there seems to be some discrepancy in the figures."

But Alex Cunningham backed up his Labour colleague's claim, adding: "Across Stockton borough, arrears for Tristar Homes are up by 25%, to nearly £1.2 million, on the year prior to the introduction of the bedroom tax, and they would be up by 60% if both Tristar Homes and the local authority were not helping with some discretionary aid.

"Several hundred people, many of them disabled, are in arrears for the first time in their lives, causing unseen misery and even shame. Was it really the Secretary of State’s intention to grind such people into the ground?"

Stephen Williams replied: "It is not the intention of either the Secretary of State or me to grind anyone into the ground. The whole point of applying size criteria to the social sector is to match the criteria that already exist in the private rented sector, and they existed throughout the entire 13-years period that the hon. Gentleman’s party was in government.

"The policy is about fairness to taxpayers as well as to tenants. For those tenants who have difficulty moving, Stockton council, like all local authorities, has discretionary housing payments in order to help them through the process."

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