Bedroom tax will be costly disaster, says housing chief

(1000 Posts)
vivizone Sun 31-Mar-13 06:51:02

I don't understand how they can implement it. When a council tenant signs the tenancy agreement, if bedroom tax is not mentioned, is it not illegal to implement it at a later date?

I don't see how it is enforceable. Let's say a tenant refuses to pay/can't pay. They then get evicted - wouldn't the council still be obliged to house them after eviction, especially if they have children?

The whole thing is a mess. Why so many changes all at the same time?!

www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/mar/30/bedroom-tax-disaster-housing-chief

Cost-cutting policy will push up benefit bill, cause social disruption and create widespread misery, say critics

Ministers came under new fire over benefit cuts last night as the independent body representing 1,200 English housing associations described the controversial bedroom tax as bad policy and bad economics that risks pushing up the £23bn annual housing benefit bill.

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said the tax would harm the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. It comes into force this week alongside a range of other tax and benefit changes.

"The bedroom tax is one of these once-in-a-generation decisions that is wrong in every respect," he said. "It's bad policy, it's bad economics, it's bad for hundreds of thousands of ordinary people whose lives will be made difficult for no benefit – and I think it's about to become profoundly bad politics."

His intervention came as opponents launched nationwide protests against the tax, which will hit 660,000 households with each losing an estimated average of £14 a week.

Crowds gathered in London's Trafalgar Square yesterday to protest against the measure, and simultaneous protests were being held in towns and cities across the UK. One protester, Sue Carter, 58, from Waltham Forest, told the Observer: "I'm a working single parent with a tiny boxroom and now I'm faced with the choice between food, heat or paying the bedroom tax. People have looked after their homes, improved them – why should they be turfed out?"

Under the scheme, which is introduced tomorrow, people in social housing with one spare bedroom will have their housing benefit cut by 14%, while those with two or more unoccupied rooms will see it slashed by 25%.

Ministers say the tax, which David Cameron calls the "spare room subsidy", will encourage people to move to smaller properties and save around £480m a year from the spiralling housing benefit bill. But critics such as the National Housing Federation (NHF) argue that as well as causing social disruption, the move risks increasing costs to taxpayers because a shortage of smaller social housing properties may force many people to downsize into the more expensive private rented sector.

The federation's warnings came as charities said the combination of benefit cuts and tax rises coming in from this week will amount to a £2.3bn hit on family finances.

Labour said analysis of official figures showed average families would be £891 worse off in the new tax year as the changes – including those to tax credits and housing benefits – begin to bite.

Research by the NHF says that while there are currently 180,000 households that are "underoccupying two-bedroom homes", there are far fewer smaller properties in the social housing sector available to move into. Last year only 85,000 one-bedroom homes became available. The federation has calculated that if all those available places were taken up by people moving as a result of the "bedroom tax", the remaining 95,000 households would be faced with the choice of staying put and taking a cut in income, or renting a home in the private sector.

If all 95,000 moved into the private sector, it says the cost of housing benefit would increase by £143m, and by millions more if others among the remaining 480,000 affected chose to rent privately.

As well as the move on spare bedrooms, council tax benefit will be replaced from this week by a new system that will be run by English local authorities but on 10% less funding. Pensioners will be protected under the changes but, as a result, it is feared there will be a bigger burden on poor working-age adults. Restrictions on the uprating of a number of welfare payments will also hit millions of households, homelessness charity Crisis has warned.

Chief executive Leslie Morphy said: "Our poorest households face a bleak April as they struggle to budget for all these cuts coming at once. People are already cutting back on the essentials of food and heating but there is only so much they can do.

"The result will be misery – cold rooms, longer queues at food banks, broken families, missed rent payments and yet more people facing homelessness – devastating for those directly affected, but bad for us all."

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "Our welfare reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities, with universal credit simplifying the complex myriad of benefits and making three million people better off. And by next year, we will have taken two million of the lowest earners out of paying tax altogether."

Crisis argues that homelessness is set to rise dramatically. This winter has already seen a rise of 31% in the numbers of rough sleepers across the country and a 20% rise in people seeking help with homelessness from their local authority in the past two years, according to Crisis.

ChartiesCharities are also concerned that the government-funded network of homelessness advisers in England is to be scrapped. The team of regional advisers and rough sleeper and youth specialists which have provided councils with expert guidance on meeting statutory homelessness duties since 2007 will be disbanded just as the bedroom tax comes in. Also being scrapped are the crisis loans and community care grants which provided a lifeline for people in financial crisis who needed essentials when moving to a new home.

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls said: "This is the week when the whole country will see whose side David Cameron and George Osborne are really on and who is paying the price for their economic failure."

BumpingFuglies Sun 31-Mar-13 20:38:02

Just remember, ANYONE can apply for a council/HA property. Under the original terms and conditions, just like a private letting. Whether working or not, claiming HB or not. If you got your council house on particular terms 20 years ago, why should those terms change?

Oh yeah, let's demonise the elderly who are OUTRAGEOUSLY occupying family homes (that they have lived in for years raising FUCKING TAXPAYERS) and turf them out if they won't (can't) pay up.

Council houses were built. Lots of them. Then they got sold off. Now there aren't enough. It's that simple. Spin the bottle and point at the nearest scapegoat. Shall we have pensioners, low income families, single parents or just goats?

Take your pick.

BumpingFuglies Sun 31-Mar-13 20:39:47

MoreBeta - Council homes are not "paid for" by the state. The state is the landlord. You pay your rent to them.

also not lets forget people hit by bedroom tax due to disability also now t by paying council tax to and on extra big houses as if they had extension to house adaptions that then increases value of house and council tax

MiniTheMinx Sun 31-Mar-13 21:07:37

When I mentioned the elderly and under occupation up thread I also pointed out the absurdity of all these private schemes being built that only private property owners could afford. You know...warden assisted, indoor therapy pools, meals, extra care etc.

There are hundreds if not thousands of elderly people living on their own, under occupying houses, private as well as HS/Council. Some turn the heat off in fear and die of the cold, many are cripplingly lonely and receive no care. Others are depressed and are struggling with basic living tasks alone.

WHY?

The whole thing is absurd. I'm sure many of these elderly people hold on to their homes, all their memories, there whole lives are now behind them, no company, nothing to look forward to. The only thing they have is this four walls full of memories.

BUT

I question whether leaving elderly people in large houses too big to heat, rattling around with no company and no care is actually very good for them.

I don't see the government investing in any social houses let alone social housing schemes that would give elderly people the kind of care/environment they need. NO that's reserved for private buyers.

It would cost too much so I guess it makes better economic sense to attack people with disabilities, working poor and the unemployed.

BumpingFuglies Sun 31-Mar-13 21:26:09

Interesting points Mini

Makes me realise just how many areas this spills over into: Universal credit, utilities costs, adult social care, food bills, family support... the list is endless. Far too much for me to analyse and deal with.

Oh, wait. That's what the Government is supposed to do, isn't it? grin

Not a dig at you Mini

discrete Sun 31-Mar-13 21:31:36

Possibly a stupid question, but what is to stop someone from knocking through the wall between two bedrooms and making it one to avoid the tax?

I would assume that many landlords with two bedroom properties in areas where there is a huge shortage of one beds will be willing to do this rather than lose their tenant.

BumpingFuglies Sun 31-Mar-13 21:33:27

You are not allowed to knock down walls without permission in a council property as it affects its classification, discrete

discrete Sun 31-Mar-13 21:35:41

but doesn't this apply to housing benefit on private lets too?

float62 Sun 31-Mar-13 21:35:52

I think that it's wrong that only working age HB claimants are liable for this 'tax', I think all HA/Council tenants should have it with exceptions made for various disabilities, foster carers, etc. AND a suitable property needs to be offered before a tenant can be 'taxed' (have their HB reduced). In my area, there are 1-bed, over-55 properties available for older tenants but absolutely no compulsion for them to move out of their, often 3-bed, homes. And there still isn't. I know some very elderly, single ladies (widows) who don't even get up the stairs to their 3/4 bedrooms but still refuse to move. This 'tax' doesn't affect me but over my road a lovely family with 3 kids desperate for another bedroom managed to swap to one with a couple (he disabled so they were allowed a 2-bed without penalty) so there are some plus sides to it. Also, just to note, most people in private rented find that HB doesn't cover all the rent and they have to top up out of their benefits or other low income. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have an HA home at all.

montmartre Sun 31-Mar-13 21:39:13

No discrete- a LL with a 2 bed would just get in 2 sharers. As tenancies are only for 6mo anyway, it's not as if they care about people having stable housing, is it?

MiniTheMinx Sun 31-Mar-13 21:48:49

I think a lot of elderly people would find the extra money and turn off the heat. Scameron knows this and doesn't want blood on his hands.

Change takes time, if people are allowed to get used to ideas then it may be possible in years to come for people to see the benefit to moving when their homes don't meet the needs.

However how can this be squared with this obsession with home for live. When people buy, its their home for life, no nazi council official turns up and turfs you out because you have an extra room. People are always going to make comparisons. ie the poor working class unable to put down roots whilst those more lucky can, often only so they can pass the property on to sons/daughters as an asset.

montmartre Sun 31-Mar-13 22:07:07

Mini- not many people who buy remain in that house their entire life- most have to move to scale-up or scale-down as their family size/finances dictate.

I have to confess I do not understand why people in council housing/HA housing do not move into private rentals if they will be in receipt of HB anyway? I thought this benefit cut only applied to those in council/HA housing?

Obviously if you have a specially adapted home, then that is different. However, I think people that are not able-bodied, and have adapted homes, should be completely exempt from this change anyway.

expatinscotland Sun 31-Mar-13 22:13:19

Anyone age 61+ is exempted from this policy, so not necessarily 'old' at all.

As for taking in lodgers, many HA/council tenancies forbid it.

expatinscotland Sun 31-Mar-13 22:16:31

'I have to confess I do not understand why people in council housing/HA housing do not move into private rentals if they will be in receipt of HB anyway? I thought this benefit cut only applied to those in council/HA housing?'

LOL! Ever tried finding a private landlord who will take HB, even partial, especially in this, a landlord's market as fewer and fewer are able to buy their own home. Then, you're on these 6-months leases, which, after 4 months, the LL can serve you notice to quit. So you're looking at the expense of moving very often and trying to find a LL who will take your LHA/HB.

What you get in private lets is an LHA/HB cap, so if you can find a place with more bedrooms than you so-called need and it's under or at the cap, you have no reduction of benefit.

Bumbdeal Sun 31-Mar-13 22:17:54

I do not think it unfair.
There are 4 pensioners in my family that have had to sell the family home and downsize as they could not afford the up keep on a three bed house. Should they need care they will have to sell up again to pay for it unlike council tenents who will get their care free!

Mrsdavidcaruso Sun 31-Mar-13 22:18:35

Mini well you my say my old Dad is under occupying as since mum died he is on his own in a 3 bed HA house However he gets no benefits apart from his pension (which he has more than paid for after working for over 60 years) in fact at the age of 82 he still works AND pays tax on both his earnings and his pension he does not get HB or any help towards his rent he pays it in full.

So should he be forced to move and leave the house he has lived in for 30 years, and the garden that he still works every day on, should he be made to move into a 1 bed flat where his family cant visit and where he will have to give up his dogs, for what? so some family on the all the benefits that they can get can move in.

In a word NO why should he?

expatinscotland Sun 31-Mar-13 22:20:14

'There are 4 pensioners in my family that have had to sell the family home and downsize as they could not afford the up keep on a three bed house.'

Anyone age 61 or over is exempted from this. They can stay in that property they are under-occupying as they wish with no reduction.

IneedAsockamnesty Sun 31-Mar-13 22:22:36

The knocking room thing wouldn't work anyway as the rule is applied on the amount of bedrooms on the original house rather than how many it has.

0netwothree Sun 31-Mar-13 22:25:18

Expatinscotland - Unfair isn't it!

IneedAsockamnesty Sun 31-Mar-13 22:25:49

So a person who had their box room converted to a lift to give them access to upstairs would still have that room counted as a bedroom.

And people are also forgetting that some of these rooms wouldn't even count as bedrooms due to the size under over crowding rules I've been in houses with bedrooms only just big enough for a normal sized cot not even a single bed. Off the top of my head I have over 10 clients with bedrooms like that who will get the benefit deduction.

rhondajean Sun 31-Mar-13 22:37:04

Lol sock thought you were suggesting something completely different with the knocking room grin

rhondajean Sun 31-Mar-13 22:37:51

Sorry I know it's not a joking matter, I just did have to read it twice.

MiniTheMinx Sun 31-Mar-13 22:48:43

Mrsdavidcaruso

I'm not suggesting he should. I am just batting about ideas. You see I don't believe that anyone should be forced to give up their home. Change should not be "done" to people change should be something that people "do"

If there were good alternatives for elderly people and it was a free choice, then that would help ease some of the shortage of family homes.

The other point I am making is why should people who pay rent have preferential treatment over people who "can't" (forget the word don't) the word is usually "can't" in making choices over their lives.

Finally I think we need to break with this ridiculous idea that home ownership is the be all and end all. Yes people sell up to pay for their care but that is because their "home" has become a commodity. An asset with financial value. But who really benefits from building new houses and offering mortgages? it isn't aunty Maud when she pops off, she can't take it with her.

charlearose Sun 31-Mar-13 22:50:08

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

stella1w Sun 31-Mar-13 22:54:50

If we agree that more housing needs to be built, isn,t it almost the same costs in terms of land/buding costs to build a two bed which gives councils/has needed flexibility in catering for a shifting demgraphic and so saves money longterm (but not with a bedroom tax)
also to all those who say move... If i moved, that would screw up schools, childcare and informal networks of neigjhbours that allow me to work on a pittance and pay tax.
So much for big society, so much for the need for children to have stability and continuity.
Sure, if smaller homes are available in two mile radius and someone refuses to move, tax them. But not otherwise

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