Published: 25 September 2013
New research carried out by government cuts campaign group False Economy suggests that one in three council house tenants have been left in arrears by the controversial 'Bedroom Tax' law, affecting around 50,000 council tenants.
Introduced in April, the 'Bedroom Tax' penalises council house tenants who have been deemed to have too many bedrooms in their council homes by cutting a percentage of their housing benefits, with a 14% reduction for a single excess room and 25% for two or more spare rooms.
Some of the hardest hit are the disabled and foster carers, as their circumstances dictate that although not in use all the time, their spare bedrooms are essential. Disabled council tenants require an extra room to house their carers, and foster carers require the extra rooms if they are looking after multiple children.
Campaign Manager for False Economy Clifford Singer said about the recent survey, "These figures show once again the predictable chaos that has resulted from the hated bedroom tax. Together with the raft of other benefits cuts the government has forced through both this year and previously, the bedroom tax is driving tenants and families who were just making ends meet into arrears, and pushing those who were already struggling with the cost of living into a full-blown crisis."
He also said "At a time when the government is actively trying to stoke a new housing bubble for purely political ends, we have people being punished for the lack of affordable housing and the decades-long failure to invest in social and council housing. The worst part is that these figures have been collated while councils’ emergency Discretionary Housing Payments are still available; they are being used up at record speed and when they run out, these figures will only get worse."
The Department for Work and Pensions have responded to the recent criticism by saying, "The removal of the spare room subsidy is a necessary reform to return fairness to housing benefit. Even after the reform, we pay over 80 per cent of most claimants' housing benefit - but the taxpayer can no longer afford to pay for people to live in properties larger than they need. It is right that people contribute to these costs, just as private renters do.
"It is just wrong to suggest the early stages of the policy - as people start to adjust to the changes - represent long-term trends in any way whatsoever or that a self-selecting poll of a small minority of landlords provides a clear picture of the reform."
They did however say that they are "carefully monitoring" their policy to ensure that the £190m in extra funds are being used effectively to try and support vulnerable tenants.