Rent arrears “soaring”

Half of families hit by the bedroom tax have been pushed into rent arrears in the first three months of the controversial policy, new data suggests.

18 September 2013

A survey of 51 housing associations around England, carried out by the National Housing Federation, found that 51% (32,432) of residents affected by the bedroom tax have been unable to pay their rent between April and June.(1)
Meanwhile, a quarter (25%) of those affected by the tax are in rent arrears for the first time, according to a smaller sample of 38 housing associations.(2)
Earlier research by the National Housing Federation also shows that many families who try to downsize to avoid the tax will be stuck where they are due to a shortage of smaller homes – and will still be charged the penalty. In March, the Federation estimated that although 180,000 households were under-occupying two bedroom social homes, only 85,000 one-bed social homes became available in 2011-12.(3)
National Housing Federation Chief Executive David Orr will highlight the new findings on Thursday at the Federation’s annual conference in Birmingham. In front of an audience of politicians and housing leaders, Mr Orr will call on Government to rethink the policy immediately – and press the Opposition to commit to repeal.
David Orr said: “This is the most damning evidence yet to show that the bedroom tax is pushing thousands of families into a spiralling cycle of debt.
“If these figures are replicated nationwide, over 330,000 households could already be struggling to pay their rent and facing a frightening and uncertain future.
“What’s more, people can’t even move to smaller homes to avoid the bedroom tax because there aren’t enough smaller properties out there. Housing associations are working flat-out to help their tenants cope with the changes, but they can’t magic one-bedroom houses out of thin air. People are trapped.
“What more proof do politicians need that the bedroom tax is an unfair, ill-planned disaster that is hurting our poorest families? There is no other option but to repeal.”
Sovereign Housing Association, which took part in the Federation’s survey, has 2,360 households affected by the bedroom tax. During the first three months of the policy the majority fell into arrears. Although some, with support, have got their payments on track, around a third are still not paying in full.
Ann Santry CBE, Chief Executive of Sovereign, said: “With huge demand for affordable homes we recognise the need to maximise the use of every room and so we’re investing heavily in supporting our residents to adapt to the changes wherever possible.
“However, six months in, we are seeing the most vulnerable families, couples or individuals on the lowest incomes beginning to struggle. Sometimes there are simply no suitable smaller properties available while in other cases the cost of moving a disabled resident from their two-bed home to another property which will need to be adapted seems to outweigh any benefits to the public purse.
“The policy also takes no account of the size or suitability of 'spare' rooms. Is it reasonable to expect two teenagers to share a tiny box room, or a 15 year old to share with her baby sister?”