Bedroom tax will mean more homeless – Torfaen housing chief
1:30pm Monday 11th March 2013 in News
SOME of Gwent’s most deprived areas are about to experience "severe poverty and almost certain homeless", with thousands having to move away from their homes.
That is the view of Bron Afon social housing chief executive Duncan Forbes, who said when the so-called bedroom tax comes into effect on April 1, many people will see their benefits drop down below the ‘surviving level".
He believes the move will affect 1,250 tenants from its network of 8,000 properties, with a demonstration project run by the Department for Works and Pensions showing how severe it will be.
In seven months from last July to January, those in Torfaen taking part in the trial saw their total arrears increase from £20,000 to £140,000.
The bedroom tax reform will see benefits paid directly to the claimant instead of the social landlord, as happens at the moment.
In an effort to get people housed in the right sized accommodation, people with spare bedrooms will see their level of benefit drop.
So, for example, if tenants get £78 per week benefit to cover their rent, that would drop to £67 if one bedroom is unoccupied and £60 if there are two unoccupied.
Mr Forbes said: "The rest would have to come from other income - which would make things impossible. In theory it is to encourage people to make choices to move to smaller accommodation, but there is nowhere else to put them.
"It is punitive and will take people below the surviving level, where some will go without meals and struggle to heat their homes. It will create real, real hardship."
He said if the Government wants people to move to smaller accommodation, social landlords should have the power to do so without penalising residents financially.
Mr Forbes cited the example of Blaenavon, where there are 86 people currently over-occupying and need to be re-housed in one-bedroom accommodation. However, only about five of these become available in the area every year, meaning it would theoretically take 17 years to re-house everyone.
He added: "It’s a bad idea all round and will create severe poverty and almost certain homelessness. If 1,300 people are moving in Torfaen over the next few years because of it, it will disrupt schools, healthcare, friendships and communities."