‘No escape’ for people caught in tax trap


Bedroom tax is hitting social housing tenants’ bank balances without offering them a chance to escape, according to a new report.

It is a year since the government introduced its controversial bedroom tax – financial charges for tenants who are deemed to have spare rooms – but the majority of people affected have been unable to downsize because of a shortage of smaller homes.

A report conducted by six housing associations, including Aragon Housing Association, which is well used in this area, shows that 70 per cent of people who were initially affected have been unable to move to a smaller property.

One Sandy tenant, known as Miss H, who lives in a three bedroom house with her two daughters aged nine and four, has had to fight the bedroom tax.

The eldest attends a special needs school as she has several difficulties. She needs her own bedroom to help manage her behaviour and to give her sister a break.

Miss H and her partner’s housing benefit was cut by 14 per cent or £16.27 a week, because their children did not share a room but they did not feel in a position to downsize.

After months of stress the legislation changed in December, allowing an extra room children who cannot share due to medical reasons. Miss H had to put in an appeal and she was granted full housing benefit, backdated to April last year.

Another Sandy couple, Mr and Mrs S, were also affected by the bedroom tax. The couple have a nine-year-old son and a six-year-old daughter, who would be expected to share a room under the tax rules but they lived in a three bedroom home. Both Mr S and their son have limited mobility and their son also has mental health problems.

They were hard hit when Mr S was made redundant from his skilled job of 20 years until, nine months after the policy began, Mr S eventually found a new job.

Figures show that 43 per cent of people affected by bedroom tax are now behind in their payment of rent. There has also been a spike in the number of complaints about mould, due to people being unable to afford to heat their homes adequately.

Alan Humphreys, chief executive of Grand Union Housing Group, parent company for Aragon Housing Association, said: “The fact remains that nearly three quarters of people who were affected by the bedroom tax remain unable to downsize because of a chronic shortage of smaller homes.

“That does not achieve what the government set out to do, which was to make better use of the housing stock, and to ease over-crowding in our areas and indicates that there is perhaps not the demand from larger families.”