The new ‘bedroom tax’, an under-occupation charge for people living in social housing who have a spare room, kicks in from April 2013. Tenants will have a choice of paying, on average, an extra £40 per month if they have one spare room, £70 per month if they have two, or move to a smaller home. Even households where every bedroom is in use may be hit with benefit cuts because under the strict new rules children will be expected to share bedrooms up to the age of 16.
The Department for Work and Pensions estimates that 670,000 households across Britain will be hit by these new measures.
Monica Burns, North East manager for the National Housing Federation says;
"These new rules are futile and unfair. Housing associations in the North East have always been encouraged by Government to build bigger homes so families could live in the same homes for life and didn’t have to move when they had children. And as land was cheaper here that made good sense. Now those same tenants and housing associations are being penalised for having the wrong type of house.
"The welfare bill could even go up as a result. Many families on benefits will have no choice but to up sticks and move to private rented accommodation. The Government will then have to pay a higher rate of housing benefit to cover their rents for smaller homes. These are the consequences of a blanket top-down policy that failed to listen to local people."
Iain Sim, Chief Executive of Coast & Country, one of the largest housing and regeneration companies in the North East, said:
"We are very concerned about this and the impact it will have on our tenants. We currently have around 2,500 under occupying tenants who face losing up to £25 a week, but we only have 16 one-bedroom properties available for them to move in to. This will potentially push more people into poverty."
Ian Porter, Managing Director of Gentoo housing association, which has more than 30,000 homes, says:
"Just over 10% of our houses are one-bedroom apartments. However, it is not only one-bedroom properties that are a concern, it is families living in three and four-bedroom homes with children of a certain age who have to share rooms who are also affected by having so-called ‘additional bedrooms’.
"At present we are talking to our tenants about the coming welfare changes to give them a chance to prepare or downsize where possible. We will also be offering financial advice and guidance to those affected."
Housing associations are asking any tenants affected by the new under-occupation charge to speak to their landlord, local council, Citizens Advice Bureau or local advice agency. All housing associations are offering a range of support to their tenants.
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