Half the families hit by bedroom tax ‘now in debt’
Thousands can’t pay rent three months into scheme, as housing chief says: we can’t magic up smaller homes
More than half of families hit by the bedroom tax have been pushed into debt during the first three months of the policy, leading to calls from the country’s biggest housing groups for a retreat from the scheme.
The National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations, said a survey of 51 of its biggest members found more than half of their residents affected by the bedroom tax – 32,432 people – could not pay their rent between April and June. The survey shows a quarter of those affected by the tax had fallen behind with their rent for the first time ever.
David Orr, the NHF’s chairman, will say these figures could mean “over 330,000 households [were] already struggling to pay their rent and facing a frightening and uncertain future” when he addresses the federation’s national conference on Thursday.
The intervention comes on the heels of a furious row between the government and the UN’s special rapporteur on housing, Raquel Rolnik, after she recommended scrapping the policy because of the “shocking” effects on vulnerable citizens. Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, accused Rolnik of undermining the impartiality of the UN. A Tory MP described Rolnik as a “loopy Brazilian leftie”.
The government policy has been dubbed the bedroom tax because housing benefit is docked by 14% if welfare claimants in social housing have a spare bedroom.
Orr repeats the criticism made by Rolnik and goes further by arguing that ministers have miscalculated the number of homes available for tenants to downsize into. Although 180,000 households were “under-occupying” two bedroom homes, he says only 85,000 one-bed homes became available in 2012.
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