Following the government’s introduction of the #bedroomtax in April 2013, the effects have so far been debilitating for those on the lowest financial rung in the UK. For many the extra pinch on their purse has meant falling behind with rent, accumulating arrears and facing ultimate devastation – eviction. Within a month of introducing bedroom tax there was a 338 per cent leap in the number of emergency hand-out applications, indicating precisely the grave reality for those on low incomes or benefits. 51% of the 63,578 tenants of 51 housing associations were unable to meet their rent payments in the first months of the new system.
Bedroom tax included in the Welfare Reform Act 2012 means that within a social sector rental property each bedroom must contain a person or a couple. If the rooms are empty the home will be considered under-occupied and face the penalty.
“The rise in DHP applications shows that many people affected by the bedroom tax are already struggling to cover their housing costs. It also raises questions about whether the £150 million DHP pot will be in anyway sufficient to cope with demand, particularly as the £26,000-a-year benefit cap has not even kicked in yet.” Stuart Macdonald, editor of Inside Housing magazine
One in three households affected by the tax is now in debt and face an uncertain future. Numerous people with ‘spare’ bedrooms are unable to move into properties with fewer bedrooms, as they are simply not available; an argument which has been presented by the National Housing Federation CEO, David Orr.
“This is the most damning evidence yet to show that the bedroom tax is pushing thousands of families into a spiraling cycle of debt. If these figures are replicated nationwide, over 330,000 households could already be struggling to pay their rent and facing a frightening and uncertain future. What’s more, people can’t even move to smaller homes to avoid the bedroom tax because there aren’t enough smaller properties out there. Housing associations are working flat-out to help their tenants cope with the changes, but they can’t magic one-bedroom houses out of thin air. People are trapped.”
Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne argues that private and social tenants should be treated equally and says:
“We are simply asking people to make some of the same choices working families have to make every day. To live in a less expensive house, to live in a house without a spare bedroom unless they can afford it, to get by on the average family income.”
This is all very well, but smaller properties for families to move into, simply do not exist in abundance. In addition, people trying to escape the benefits trap are struggling to find a job with a decent wage to enable a basic existence and if they do, are facing bedroom tax penalties on very low incomes.
If you are worried by the bedroom tax or are facing difficulties with paying rent, visit No Limits’ website or visit one of three drop-in services in Southampton. More information on how the Bedroom tax may affect you is available at: http://www.housing.org.uk/policy/welfare-reform/bedroom-tax
by Max Willis
Marketing & Communications Intern