Friday, 1 February 2013

Bedroom Tax

In April, an ‘under-occupation penalty’(the Bedroom Tax - but it isn't really a tax) will be served on people on housing benefit (HB)with a spare room or rooms. Tenants of pension age are exempt, as are those living in shared-ownership social housing. The idea is to withdraw some housing benefit from those families whose children have left home which means are still living in three and four bedroom social/council houses. It’s designed to get these people to downsize thus freeing up housing stock, as well as save about £500 million in the HB budget. One spare room will result in a 14% reduction in HB. Two or more spare rooms will see a 25% reduction in HB. This is a rather blunt instrument with little flexibility and rules that singularly don’t take account of individual circumstances. TA soldiers and other reservists who can be called up for full operational tours, could see thir parents HB cut, whilst the parents of students are not hit. By far the biggest problem it is just not that easy to downsize or to move. There just aren’t the smaller properties available - so even if these families agree to move they can’t. Nevertheless they could be losing up to £30 a week. 660,000 households(around 20%) are affected and there is the danger some could end up homeless. There’s simply no way to reverse the measure which starts in April; however increasing the discretionary housing allowance, would allow councils to take individual circumstances into account, and help ameliorate some of the unforeseen consequences.

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