'Bedroom tax will stop new homes being built'
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Universal Credit and also in Central Government, Housing
The forthcoming bedroom tax will limit the amount of new homes social landlords are able to build, a speaker at the Chartered Institute of Housing's (CIH) South East Conference and Exhibition said today.
Lord Richard Best told delegates at the Hilton Metropole in Brighton that housing associations must make the point clear to the government.
Lord Best, who is chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “Housing associations need to make the point that the bedroom tax will weaken them and reduce their income.
“The thing that will chime with government is that it will lessen your ability to build more homes and the government really does believe we need to do that.
“In theory the bedroom tax is about discouraging under occupation but if you wanted to do that you would concentrate on pensioners and they are excluded.
“It’s an iniquitous tax, it’s not really about ending under occupancy it’s about raising money and reducing costs to the government.
“It’s about making poorer households pay their fair share of the deficit and I think there are other people who are better placed to do that.”
Andrew Parfitt, head of housing policy at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), who was speaking alongside Lord Best during a panel session appeared to rule out any changes to the bedroom tax, which will come into effect in April.
Mr Parfitt said that the DWP had engaged IPSOS Mori and the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research to monitor the bedroom tax when it comes into force.
He said: “I realise there are a lot of concerns about under-occupancy. Ministers are going to be paying a lot of attention to its implementation and we are going to be monitoring and evaluating.
“Actually we are only applying to the social sector rules that have applied to the private rented sector since the 1990s. These measures have been operating in the private rented sector for 15 or 20 years without a lot of problems.”
Also on the panel was Paul Wilding, benefits manager at Oxford City Council, which is testing how paying housing benefit direct to tenants will work via the government’s Direct Payment Demonstration Projects.
He said: “Rent arrears from the project are running at five percent and they are coming down over time. Having said that five percent arrears would not be sustainable across our whole portfolio, our current level is about two percent.
“We are hearing encouraging noises from the DWP about the number of people who will be exempted however. I think they started off thinking 10 percent and now it is more like 25 to 30 percent.”