Socialist Worker

Rent arrears mount as Tories’ bedroom tax hits poor tenants

The government’s hated bedroom tax came into force on 1 April. But the policy—and the Tories’ thin justifications for it—are already starting to fall apart, writes Dave Sewell

Issue No. 2357

Tenants lobbied housing associations over the bedroom tax in Glasgow last week

Tenants lobbied housing associations over the bedroom tax in Glasgow last week (Pic: Josh Brown)


The government had promised that its bedroom tax would save £490 million a year by snatching housing benefit from more than 600,000 households.

But it has created a financial disaster for councils and housing associations as well as tenants.

The tax cuts housing benefit for tenants who are deemed to have “spare” bedrooms.

But those who are losing money often can’t afford to make up the shortfall to cover their rent, and have nowhere to move to.

So arrears are mounting up. In Moss Side, Manchester, 41 percent of tenants hit by the bedroom tax are now behind on their rent. 

In East Ayrshire in Scotland it’s a whopping 75 percent.

Leeds council spared up to 300 tenants from the tax by reclassifying some homes last month. 

But some 7,000 tenants are still hit by the bedroom tax in the city—and 2,800 are already in arrears.

The council is owed £138,000 in rent. It expects this figure to rise to over £1 million by the time that the tax has been in place for a year.

Tenants and their supporters lobbied the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) last week (pictured). 

Landlords there revealed the pressure that the bedroom tax has put them under. The bedroom tax has taken away a total of £50 million in benefits in Scotland. 

A fund of just £10 million for emergency payments has replaced them. 

Emergency

SFHA chief Mary Taylor said tenants were “racing” to apply for the emergency payments, meaning most would miss out.

She said the bedroom tax had pushed tenants and landlords “through the looking glass”.

The theory behind the bedroom tax was that people would move to smaller homes. This was callous enough to disabled people and children whose rooms are anything but spare.

But it fails on its own terms because their simply aren’t the homes for people to move into.

Cambridge University has researched the impact of the bedroom tax on behalf of housing associations in the east of England.

It found that the shortage of one bedroom homes means it would take 24 years to rehouse all single people hit by the bedroom tax.

And this would cost £17,742 for each tenant.

The Locality thinktank even found some of the larger homes in Norris Green, Liverpool, being boarded up because landlords could no longer afford to rent them out.

The absurdity of the bedroom tax puts councils under even more pressure.

And this strengthens the hand of tenants who refuse to pay and the growing movement for benefit justice.

It has taken just weeks for the bedroom tax to become mired in disarray and controversy. We must stand firm until the whole policy is scrapped.

 


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