BEDROOM TAX. A summary by Frank
None of what follows is scaremongering.
Nearly one in three tenants on benefit to lose at least £14 per week
The Draconian measures will affect an estimated 660,000 working-age social tenants – 31% of existing working-age housing benefit claimants in the social sector. The majority of these people have only one extra bedroom.
The legislation is deliberately complicated and comrades need to gen up or refer to other agencies. The legislation also worsens between Housing Benefit and Universal Credit which will replace HB from October 2013
80% of those affected are expected to be unable or unwilling to move home, so the governments claim that it will free up homes for ‘overcrowded families’ is limited. The government is not interested in providing homes, it is interested in penalising the poorest.
Many tenants have invested a lot of money in their homes over the years – garden sheds, children’s play items, carpets, decorating etc., and the prospect of abandoning this will be hard to take.
(Based on England/Wales)
(32pages, Chartered Institute of Housing, aimed at Scotland’s social landlords)
The “bedroom tax” is a change to Housing Benefit introduced by the Con-dem Government to take effect from April 2013.
The power to do this is contained in the Welfare Reform Act 2012 and is commonly referred to as the bedroom tax, size criteria or under-occupation penalty.
Children under 16 of same gender expected to share one room.
Children under 10 expected to share regardless of gender
Disabled tenant or partner who needs non resident overnight carer will be allowed an extra bedroom. However proving this will be very difficult, although it has been allowed in the private rented sector since 2010.
Who will be affected?
All claimants who are deemed to have at least one spare bedroom will be affected. This includes:
Separated parents who share the care of their children and who may have been allocated an extra bedroom to reflect this. Benefit rules mean that there must be a designated ‘main carer’ for children (who receives the extra benefit)
Couples who use their ‘spare’ bedroom when recovering from an illness or operation
Foster carers because foster children are not counted as part of the household for benefit purposes
Parents whose children visit but are not part of the household including those at university.
Families with disabled children who need an extra bedroom due to their disability. (a case about this in Private Rented sector is now going to Supreme Court)
Disabled people including people living in adapted or specially designed properties. (One person has been told that her adapted shower room which was a bedroom will count as an extra bedroom and she’ll have to pay for it.)
Pensioners when in mixed age couple
How much will people lose?
The cut will be a fixed percentage of the Housing Benefit eligible rent. The Government has said that this will be set at 14% for one extra bedroom and 25% for two or more extra bedrooms.
The Government’s impact assessment shows that those affected will lose an average of £14 a week. Housing association tenants are expected to lose £16 a week on average.
However as social housing rents in the Highlands are higher than the Scottish average, we can expect to lose marginally more.
A person on JSA can expect to be hit by at least £60 per month.
HB is different for claimants depending on whether they are with a private landlord or social landlord, ie., Council or Housing Association. Private tenants are already subject to a benefit reduction, as Their LOCAL HOUSING ALLOWANCE is set at a ” market rate” below the actual market rate, meaning large numbers of claimants get benefit at a lower rate than the actual rent, and have to make up the difference from their unemployment or other benefits, or from the meagre wages of those on pay low enough to qualify for LHA.
The new legislation is effectively a substantial cut in HB for all claimants in Social housing who supposedly have a ‘spare’ room.
The government do not care if a room is single or double, it is just a room, so two children will be expected to share a ‘single’ room.
A couple alone in a two-bedroom home will see their HB reduced by 14%per week, and by 25% if they have a three-bedroom house.
A couple in a three-bedroom home with two children will see their HB reduced by 14% per week – the Government says children must share a bedroom, so the other room is ‘spare’!
A couple in a three-bedroom home with one child will see a cut of 14%.
A couple in a four-bedroom house with three children will see their benefit cut by 14%, or by 25% if two children are home.
A couple with one adult unemployed child aged 16+ and two other children in a 4-bed house will be cut, by more than 14% but subject to other terms.
(‘Couple’ also means a single parent)
All these reduction will apply even if there are no available ‘smaller’ homes to which the claimant may be moved by the landlord. As a large proportion of social (and private) housing built in the last 40 years has been of 2- and 3-bedroom size, being the most flexible, the number of 1-bed and Studio flats is very limited and will prevent any significant migration. The government know this of course, but don’t care.
Tenants in rural areas where there is no alternative accommodation, even if they wanted it, will be hit.
The cuts also apply even if you are disabled and use a spare room for keeping equipment such as a mobility scooter or for kidney dialysis.
A couple who do not share the same bedroom will also be penalised, even if this is because of disability.
Also, separated parents who share custody and keep a spare room for their visiting children will see similar cuts.
Parents of children taken into foster care, even if temporarily.
Foster Carers will be penalised, because children in care are not counted.
If a partner/dependent dies, the surviving tenant gets one years grace before HB cuts apply. With the introduction of Universal Credit this will be reduced to 13 weeks.
Claimants will be expected to find the money from other benefits or move home at their own expense, possibly out of the area meaning a change of school and loss of friends and family support. Then when their oldest child reaches the age of 10 they may be eligible to apply to move back into a larger house again, but of course there may be none available, and certainly not their old house! Thus we see both a tragedy and a farce.
The government is also to stop direct payments to landlords, putting the responsibility on tenants, many of whom will have to set up transactional bank accounts, perhaps for the first time, and many of whom lack the skills to budget. For example, if the landlord sets up a direct debit and there are insufficient funds in the account, even just by £1, the landlord will get NO rent and the tenant will get hit by default bank charges. (This applies to ALL tenants whether claiming HB or not). The landlord may also charge a default fee! The tenant may not even realize the situation until he examines a statement or gets a notice of arrears, and may be unable to catch up. This will inevitably lead to rent arrears, losses to landlords, evictions and increased rents for remaining tenants.
The new legislation will be accompanied by a ‘black propaganda’ campaign by the government and the usual obsequious media to demonise all HB claimants as feckless scroungers denying ‘genuine’ families the chance to move into a house, and that the ‘taxpayer’ is subsidising them. The reality is that it is a mean and hurtful policy aimed knowingly at those least able to move home and least able to pay the rent.
Under both Labour and Tories, the social rented housing stock has fallen (by 421,000 units from 1997 to 2010) as funds were cut, right-to-buy removed the best houses, and councils were denied the ability to build. This is the REAL cause of the huge waiting lists.
In most cases, the penalties will kick in after 13 weeks of ‘under-occupancy’ – this will affect the families of the armed forces who are on tours of duty.
STUDENTS: This will affect the families of students away for 6 months or more.
CHILDREN: under16′s of same sex must share. Over 10′s of different sex are entitled to own room. Under 10′s of either sex must share.
Social landlords are already planning to change the criteria for applicants. For example, if a WORKING couple with one child apply for a vacant local council house close to the workplace, and the only house available is a 3-bedroom (not uncommon especially in rural areas), the application may be refused because the Landlord is afraid of potential loss if the tenant/s become unemployed. This could further devastate rural communities already desperately short of social housing, although the Landlord may never admit that this kind of process is official.
Of course what no-one is saying is that Labour introduced size criteria into the private rented sector in 2008 and had planned to extend this to the social rented sector in 2010 but Housing Associations made too much fuss about the potential rent losses they faced if that happened forcing them to drop the scheme.