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."

hwjm1945 Sun 31-Mar-13 08:58:29

Ignore. Mistaken fat finger syndrome

christinarossetti Sun 31-Mar-13 09:00:20

I agree that this is much, much worse than the '80s. The majority of cuts have yet to happen.

It's more like the Victorian times pre-reforms.

LornMowa Sun 31-Mar-13 09:01:46

BumpingFugly As it happens when we were first married we did have a lodger who moved out about a month before our first child was born.

I'll acknowledge that it may not be ideal for those with a young family but its an option for empty nesters. It's an option which I personally would find preferable to rent arrears and eviction.

It's also another person to share the costs of utilities so the fact that benefits are affected may not be so onerous.

sashh Sun 31-Mar-13 09:02:53

So why should it he any different if you are in social housing?

Because social housing is based on need. My HA bungalow was built specifically for someone with mobility needs, something you do not get in the private sector.

If I have to move out it will be to a private landlord, but the council will have to pay for adapting that property for my needs, when I say council I obviously mean the tax payer. Also the increase in rent will be covered by taxpayer

Where I live most flats, certainly the high rise flats are for adults only, some are for 35+ only.

But they are all two or three bedroomed.

Breezy1985 Sun 31-Mar-13 09:05:32

I've got a just turned 9yo dd and an almost 8yo ds, so I've been affected, there advice was to move for a year or take in a lodger, both the kids bedrooms are box rooms, and my ds has sleep problems and on melatonin which doesn't always work and he would never sleep sharing a room, have already tried it, this has been our home for 5.5 years and there is no 2 beds in this area so if i did move they would have to change schools, i know of 3 single pensioners on my street who don't have to pay but i use both bedrooms and have to, suppose I'm luckier then some though as it is just a year.

BumpingFuglies Sun 31-Mar-13 09:11:05

I find it ridiculous that a large proportion of these "under-occupied" properties are lived in by pensioners - the very people who are exempt. Not saying they shouldn't be exempt, though.

It's not a tax on top of your rent, the amount of rent for your property is the same.
The government are saying social housing is available and housing benefit is available to help people on low income but why should they pay for you to have more bedrooms than you need if you can't afford them yourselves.
People need to be gratefull they have a roof over their heads and if people want to complain about 'the bedroom tax' maybe they should read up on it and understand it first.
If you rent in the private sector you can only get housing benefit for the amount of bedrooms you need so now it's the same for social housing which is fair.

I will need to pay more rent now because I'm considered to have one extra bedroom. I weighed out the pros and cons about downsizing or paying and have decided to Pay because i want the extra space.

I know some people have low wages or benefits through no choice of their own but this isn't a free world. People need to be grateful things they have and if people want more then they need to pay for it.

Brighton council has promised that no tenants will be evicted over this. hopefully more will follow

MyOtherNameIsFunnier Sun 31-Mar-13 09:18:02

Grateful for a roof over their heads?

Grateful?

Bring back the workhouses. that'll learn em.

BumpingFuglies Sun 31-Mar-13 09:20:02

Milk if you were originally allocated a property that was too big because that was what was available, why should you be penalised now? Or put your kids in a room together and rent the other one out?

Breezy1985 Sun 31-Mar-13 09:20:26

But I was given this house because it was deemed what I need, they wouldn't put me on the waiting list for a 2 bedroom as it would of been over occupied with a boy and a girl sharing, it's not fair to do a u turn really. I am going to stay and pay rather then move for a year, my children are happy here and in a brilliant school, we'll just have to cut down on other stuff

YellowandGreenandRedandBlue Sun 31-Mar-13 09:21:35

Milk - sorry, that is not the right way to view this. People need their homes. Some of these people are unable to work due to disability. Kicking them out saves no money for the taxpayer, their HB is going to have to rise to pay for private rental anyway. No money saved at all and higher bills forthe taxpayer, Just a whole lot of upset for no improvement to anyone's lives.

sashh Sun 31-Mar-13 09:23:47

If you rent in the private sector you can only get housing benefit for the amount of bedrooms you need so now it's the same for social housing which is fair.

But property like the one I am in does not exist in the private sector.

I challenge you to fine a 1 bedroomed wheelchair accessible property in the UK.

Go on, google.

YellowandGreenandRedandBlue Sun 31-Mar-13 09:24:58

Yes the unthinking Victorian attitudes I hear over and over on these issues really get me down. People need homes. We have 3m unemployed and low wage economy where even when you do get a job it doesn't pay enough to really provide for your family.

Why does everyone kick the person doing a bit worse?

I have never claimed benefits, I can happily say that currently these changes affect me not be bit (but things can change) - but I can still see they are morally wrong and also economically and socially shortsighted.

MyOtherNameIsFunnier Sun 31-Mar-13 09:25:30

I know a couple who both work, earning arund £70k between them. They live in a three bed HA house that the wife was allocated back when she was a LP. Her children have now moved out, married and had their own children.

They pay a ridiculously small amount of rent compared to local market rents. They could easily afford to rent privately or buy a house.

THESE are the people who should be penalised for taking up social housing uneccessarily. But weirdly they arent'. The bedroom tax only applies to benefit claimants.

They should tax the people who can afford it, rather than going after the poorest. It's fucking scary actually.

diddl Sun 31-Mar-13 09:28:04

Sounds good in theory if for example there are singles/couples in housing that could be used for a family.

But I'm sure a simple tot-up would show the disparity between the housing type available iyswim & what is needed.

twofingerstoGideon Sun 31-Mar-13 09:28:26

LornMowa One way to avoid the reduction in benefit would be to allow someone to move into the spare room.

I take lodgers in my house to help pay the mortgage. I've often experienced non-payment of rent, I've had bailiffs knocking at the door for their debts (and persisting for YEARS after lodger left), I've had people damage my possessions, etc. etc.

Also, why would anyone - except the desperate (me!) - want to have a stranger living in their house, especially when they have children?

Perhaps you should look at the bigger picture before coming out with such a simplistic 'solution'.

BumpingFuglies Sun 31-Mar-13 09:28:58

their HB is going to have to rise to pay for private rental anyway
^^
this

flatpackhamster Sun 31-Mar-13 09:29:06

Yet another rather sad attempt to drive up hits to the Guardian's website.

twofingerstoGideon Sun 31-Mar-13 09:33:19

It's also another person to share the costs of utilities so the fact that benefits are affected may not be so onerous.
Lodgers do not usually pay a share of the utilities. Rents are usually fully inclusive, which is a good thing when they decide to give you one-day's notice of their departure.
Don't forget, renting a room is not like renting any other property - there is no 'lease', no fixed period of notice etc. You can agree whatever you want, but if your lodger wants to leave there's not much mileage in insisting they stay and give proper notice. You are sharing your personal living space with these people and if they're not happy they can make your life pretty miserable.

sashh Sun 31-Mar-13 09:34:00

MyOtherNameIsFunnier

Good point. Maybe social housing should charge rent as a % of the household income?

twofingerstoGideon Sun 31-Mar-13 09:34:51

Yet another rather sad attempt to drive up hits to the Guardian's website.

this is for you, flatpack biscuit

Isabeller Sun 31-Mar-13 09:36:25

Within this is there any definition of what sized space is designated as a bedroom ie at what size does a cupboard become a room? Is 8ft x 6ft a bedroom under these regulations when HMO single bedroom size is around 8ft x 8.5 ft?

BumpingFuglies Sun 31-Mar-13 09:42:31

Isabeller, 50 sq ft or less is classified as not a bedroom, for the purposes of defining overcrowding, but this classification does not apply to the bedroom tax. It is going to be "discretionary" as to how social landlords classify the property, as far as I understand.

BumpingFuglies Sun 31-Mar-13 09:44:35

flatpack would you prefer a Daily Mail link? grin

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