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New figures from the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning (CCHP) show that more than half of tenants affected by the 2013 ‘bedroom tax’ are struggling to pay the additional rent just five months on.
The housing benefit changes, which came into play in England, Scotland and Wales last year, left 59% (300,000) of tenants in arrears or struggling to pay rent in the first five months of the new regime, according to the report. Affordable housing campaigners and Labour MPs say the figures show why the Department for Housing and Pensions (DWP) is calling for the regime to be scrapped.[quote]This [report] shows the bedroom tax has made life harder for thousands of people,”[/quote]
said Labour’s Rachel Reeves.[quote]David Cameron should scrap his cruel and costly tax on bedrooms – if he won’t a Labour government will.”[/quote]
The ‘bedroom tax’ was introduced as a way of saving money on housing benefit for those in larger properties. If tenants happened to have a spare bedroom in their home, their housing benefit is reduced by 14%. Those with two or more spare rooms have their benefit cut by 25%.
The policy was introduced by the government as a ‘spare room subsidy removal’, but dubbed as ‘bedroom tax’ by everybody else. Tenants also had the option of moving to a smaller property to avoid losing out to the tax.
The CCHP report is said to be the first official study into the effect of the benefit change, focusing on its initial impact in the first few months of being introduced. According to the report’s findings, around 59% of people affected said they were struggling five months on to keep up with rent payments, whilst a quarter of people had borrowed to pay their rent.
39% said they had made ‘some contribution’ to their outstanding rent, but 20% said they had paid nothing at all. Only 41% of tenants had managed to pay their additional rent in full by the end of the five month period.
Whilst 19% of tenants opted to move to a smaller property, only 4.5% had been able to do so within the first six months of the new policy.
David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said:[quote]Time and time again it has been shown that the bedroom tax is pushing people into rent arrears, and people have been unable to downsize because of a lack of smaller properties.
Now the figures from the DWP prove it is not working, surely it is time for the government to admit they got it wrong and repeal this ill-thought policy.”[/quote]