Nationwide Opposition to the Bedroom Tax
The UK Government’s proposed bedroom tax which is likely to be introduced next April has inspired criticism from many organisations and associations and certainly appears to demonstrate how completely out of touch with reality this coalition Government is.
Described as a “callous policy” by the opposition Labour Party and designed to make poor people even more poverty stricken, Lord McKenzie who is the Shadow Minister for Work and Pensions said it was a grotesque experiment to reduce the benefit of people living in under occupied social housing.
Housing Benefit to be reduced
Housing benefit will be reduced by fixed percentages for tenants living in social or housing association housing which is deemed by the council to be larger than necessary. In real terms this will mean that the full amount of rent you pay will be reduced by 14% if you have one additional bedroom and by 25% if you have two or more spare bedrooms.
However, the new bedroom tax will not apply to pensioners.
Bedroom Tax will drive people into debt
The Government insists that the policy will assist in resolving the housing shortage since the reduction in housing benefit will “encourage” (note the word is not “force”) people to move out of properties that are too large for their needs.
Lord McKenzie said that his Department didn’t know what reaction they would get from tenants and intimated that the Government couldn’t care less. He suggested that the Government would prefer that the tenants didn’t move out and found the shortfall in rent from their own pockets because HM Treasury would achieve the maximum in saving if this happened. He further stated that it would divide communities, drive people into debt and increase homelessness.
The impact of the new regulations on an average family will be a loss of £14 per week and even if people did move out of their larger houses because of the reduction in housing benefit, there are not sufficient smaller houses for them to move to either owned by housing associations or by councils.
Greater poverty for the poor and more debt
Describing it as a “"certain recipe for driving the poor into greater poverty and debt", Lord McKenzie opposed the new regulations in the House of Lords; whilst Lord Freud who is the minister for welfare reform argued that housing stock would be used more efficiently “over time” and would resolve overcrowding problems as well as reining in the expenditure on housing benefit.
Not enough smaller houses to downsize to
Nationwide there is huge opposition from Shelter and other similar organisations most supporting the view that there are not sufficient houses available for people to downsize even if they wanted to.
One housing association in Wales, Cadwyn Housing Association, has already calculated that the bedroom tax will affect one third of its tenants.
One has to wonder where all this will lead. If the bedroom tax is imposed and people can’t afford to pay the rent, but also can’t find smaller houses to rent because there aren’t enough, this surely will lead to more possession proceedings; this in turn will lead to court time being overstretched with associated costs and if possession orders are granted, people will need to be rehoused because they will be homeless. On which planet one wonders, does the Government plan to put them especially since all of them will be in debt with no means of obtaining credit from anywhere to pay for alternative housing?