MONEY owed to housing associations across Gwent increased by 14 per cent in 2013 from last year, figures have shown.

Tenants in Gwent owed £3.24 million to Tai Calon, Newport City Homes, Monmouthshire Housing Association and Bron Afon at the start of December. This time last year, the four associations were owed £2.8 million.

The Government’s spare room subsidy, or bedroom tax as it has been dubbed by critics of the policy, was said to be the main reason for the increase.

The spare room subsidy ensured working age tenants from a local authority, housing association or social landlord receive Housing Benefit based on the number of people in their household and the size of their accommodation. Only approved foster carers, or rooms for students and members of the armed or reserve forces can be allocated as ‘spare’.

People with more than one spare bedroom now lose 14 per cent of their eligible rent and two or more spare bedrooms lose 25 per cent.

The number of tenants in debt to Bron Afon and Monmouthshire Housing Association (MHA) decreased from December 2012 but the money owed to MHA increased from £506,954 in 2012 to £525,712 in 2013.

Newport City Homes were owed £1.167 million at the start of December by 3,596 tenants. In December 2012, they were owed £850,414 by 3,134 tenants.

Tai Calon was owed £538,193 in comparison to £368,554 the year before. The number of people owing money has increased from 1,707 in December 2012 to 2,277 in December 2013.

The Director of Communities and Housing at Tai Calon Community Housing, Andrew Myatt, said the bedroom tax has “caused difficulties” for some tenants, which accounts for the number of people in rental arrears.

He said: “We want tenants to be able to stay in their homes. Where we are able, we help tenants to downsize to smaller properties.”

And Blaenau Gwent AM Alun Davies said: “This is a significant increase in arrears and money owed and is a result of the benefit reforms bought in by the UK coalition government.”

Citizens Advice said it gave more than 22,000 people advice on social housing rent arrears from July to September 2013.

It also reported a 12 per cent increase in enquiries about homelessness and a doubling of enquiries about discretionary housing payments.