by Debbie Stuart – Aragon Housing Association
The bedroom tax was introduced on 1 April 2013 and saw housing benefit entitlements cut for social housing residents deemed to be under-occupying their homes.
In preparation for the bedroom tax we took on more staff and reallocated our resources to focus on helping those affected by it. We were as well prepared, if not better, than many other social housing providers. Our staff knew customers would struggle in places and suspected the government’s prediction that it would free up larger properties for families on the waiting list was flawed, but we wanted to do our best to make the idea work.
The first 100 days
So far, out of the 460 households with spare bedrooms affected by the bedroom tax, we have only been able to move just over 40 residents to smaller houses. This includes the 18 months spent preparing for the policy‘s arrival. Nearly a quarter of those affected are disabled and have had expensive adaptations to make the home they are now under-occupying suitable – many more have more minor adaptations. Can it really make sense to move them to a home which would need further adaptations at more cost, and then to remove the adaptations in the home they left behind?
After concerns were raised about the financial impact the bedroom tax would have on tenants, the government topped up the discretionary housing payment fund – a crisis fund controlled by local councils for residents struggling with their housing costs. Yet we found that only 9% of those affected by the bedroom tax have been successful in applying for discretionary housing payments – and these payments are only a stop-gap solution. Some residents can not even reapply for financial help if they cannot prove they are making savings or working more hours.
The cash-strapped tenants who agree to move, who feel they have no alternative but to downsize when a smaller property becomes available, know the choice of a new home will be limited. They face hauling young children out of schools and away from their communities. That’s assuming we can somehow find a supply of two-bedroom homes where there aren’t any.
Source: Guardian Housing Network
29th July 2013