‘THE bedroom tax is causing real chaos, doing real damage to people’s lives,’ David Orr, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation said yesterday
‘The impact is at least as bad as we had anticipated, in many respects even worse,’ said Orr, the leader of the umbrella group for housing associations.
Housing benefit was cut by at least £14 per week in April for recipients of working age who live in social housing and are deemed to have spare bedrooms.
‘Some people who have never been in arrears in their entire lives are in arrears and are horrified that they are in that position.
‘What we’ve seen are really bad effects on individuals, people whose lives have been turned upside down, who are very frightened about the future,’ said Orr.
Rent arrears have soared all over Britain, with East Ayreshire Council saying that arrears are up by 340% since the benefit cut, while huge arrears increases have also been reported in Wales, London, Cambridge, Leeds, Dundee, Manchester and elsewhere.
While rent arrears have soared, increasing numbers of larger houses are now lying empty as a result of the tax.
‘The numbers of empty homes we’ve got to let are increasing significantly,’ said Iain Sim, chief executive of Coast and Country, a letting agency which owns more than 10,000 properties on Teesside.
Cobalt Housing, which owns nearly 6,000 mainly family homes in Liverpool, said the benefit change is putting ‘terrible pressure’ on tenants.
‘We have perfectly good, three-bedroom homes that people are telling us they can’t afford to live in, because of the bedroom tax,’ says managing director, Alan Rogers.
The government issued a statement in which it cynically depicted the imposition of the bedroom tax as ‘the removal of the spareroom subsidy’.
The Department for Work and Pensions claimed: ‘The removal of the spare room subsidy is returning fairness to housing’.
Tory Party Chairman and Minister Without Portfolio, Grant Shapps, tried to discredit the National Housing Federation, describing it as a ‘professional trade lobbying body.
‘You would kind of expect them to be saying this,’ said Shapps.
Welfare Minister Lord Freud, who is reported to have two houses with 12 bedrooms, warned councils against assisting victimised tenants.
‘Where it is found a local authority has redesignated properties without reasonable grounds and without reducing rents, my department would consider restricting or not paying their housing benefit subsidy,’ he threatened.