One in three council tenants affected by a recent cut to housing benefit has fallen behind on rent since the policy took effect, figures suggest. The TUC’s False Economy campaign made Freedom of Information requests to all of Britain’s councils; 114 responded.
Data revealed 50,000 tenants had fallen into arrears since 1 April 2013 when the spare room subsidy was scrapped – a move critics called the bedroom tax. The government said the figures did not represent “long-term” changes.
The policy was introduced to reduce the housing benefit bill and free up homes for families living in overcrowded conditions. It means that housing benefit was cut to tenants in a council or housing association property who are deemed to have bedrooms they do not need. The Department of Work and Pensions said the policy is in its early stages and it was “carefully monitoring the policy nationally, ensuring the extra funds to support vulnerable tenants are used well as these changes are introduced”.
False Economy’s report is the biggest study of the effects of the benefit change carried out so far. None of the 50,000 tenants were in arrears prior to the benefit changes. The council with the greatest percentage of tenants who had fallen behind was Barrow in north-west England. Of the 289 tenants there affected by the cut, 219 have not been able to pay rent since the policy came into effect.
False Economy campaign manager Clifford Singer said the figures show that, along with other benefit cuts, the benefit change is “driving tenants and families who were just making ends meet into arrears”. He predicted that tenants could struggle even more if council payments designed to help the most in need stop. ”The worst part is that these figures have been collated while councils’ emergency Discretionary Housing Payments are still available; they are being used up at record speed and when they run out, these figures will only get worse,” Mr Singer said.
The National Housing Federation has also carried out a survey looking at the numbers of tenants in arrears. It found that a quarter of households affected by the cut have fallen behind in their rent for the first time ever – 11,000 out of 44,000 households were in arrears according to data given by 38 of England’s housing associations. The National Housing Federation’s Chief Executive David Orr, called the figures “damning”.
Source: BBC NEWS
18th September 2013