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‘Bedroom tax’ will hit 3,000 families
CONTROVERSIAL plans to penalise social housing residents with surplus bedrooms will affect almost 3,000 local families, new research claims.
The government’s “bedroom tax” is designed to encourage people in council or housing association properties to downsize, or pay extra for the privilege of having an extra bedroom.
But critics are concerned the policy could put hundreds of vulnerable tenants at risk of losing their homes.
The National Housing Federation has released figures estimating the number of families likely to be affected by the bedroom tax.
They show that across Christchurch, Bournemouth, Poole, North Dorset and South Dorset, a total of 2,819 households are at risk. They could have to pay between £609 and £1,249 extra a year if they don’t downsize.
Cllr Ben Grower, leader of the Labour group on Bournemouth council, said: “We simply don’t have enough one and two bedroom properties in our housing stock for people to downsize.
“Yet again we are seeing the needy paying the price for the government’s failed policies.”
David Williams, chief executive of Ability Housing, a specialist housing association for disabled people, said: “Many of our most vulnerable tenants are frightened they might lose their homes.
“Our concern is that disabled people’s homes are adapted individually to meet their needs; they cannot simply move to a smaller unadapted home. The budget for discretionary housing payments offered by government is simply inadequate to cope.”
And Ian Gilders, project director for welfare reform at housing association Sovereign, said around 330 of their tenants in Christchurch, Bournemouth and Poole are likely to be affected – losing an average of £19 a week.
He said they were contacting all affected tenants direct and had employed extra staff to provide individual advice and assistance.
“The bedroom tax is rather a blunt instrument and in reality it will cause unnecessary distress for vulnerable people on low incomes,” he said.
But Cllr John Beesley, leader of Bournemouth council, said: “I think we can manage it. It’s like a lot of these reforms, we are using every resource to try and minimise adverse effects of new government policy.”
He said they had set up a £1million “safety net” for those who are not otherwise protected by legislation. “We’ve done that voluntarily because it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
Another £500,000 fund has been set up to protect anyone adversely affected by universal credit, which is due to come into effect later this year.