Over 65% of tenants who have been hit by the coalitionís new tax on households with excess bedrooms are currently struggling to keep up with their monthly rent payments, according to a study by the National Housing Federation.
The ëbedroom taxí, as it has been informally branded, has been an issue of severe controversy ever since its implementation last April, and has been described by the NHF as an ìunfair, unworkable policyî.
The policy necessitates that anyone who has at least one spare bedroom should be entitled to 14% less in housing benefits, whilst anyone with two excess rooms is entitled to 25% less.
And in the NHFís comprehensive survey that contained the opinions of 183 housing associations across the UK, it was found that 38% of people affected are now in debt due to the policy, whilst many more have had to find secondary employment in order to cope with the greater financial burdens that they are now experiencing.
The NHF have called for the government to reconsider the policy, arguing that it is currently more detrimental than beneficial and is in dire need of modification.
The government have identified that they are “determined to support those who might need extra help through these necessary reforms”.
The NHF are not the first faction to criticise the bedroom tax policy, with financial organisations and opposition politicians alike both staunchly rejecting the value of the change in recent months.
The coalition have argued that the policy is necessary in order to cut the UKís public spending deficit, and identified their belief that the measure would save the government billions of pounds in the long term.
However, whilst many people are willing to accept that a change in the benefit system is necessary, there have been questions raised about whether now is the right time to instigate a radical overhaul of the existing system, considering the hostile financial environment that many Britons currently find themselves in.
This is a view shared by the National Housing Federation, who has argued that the new policy has been “heaping misery and hardship on already struggling families, pushing them into arrears”.
Chief executive David Orr said: “Now many are at risk of being evicted because they simply can’t find the extra money to pay their rent. These people have done nothing wrong.”
“The coalition government have suddenly changed the rules and given them a false choice – move to a smaller home or pay.
“Yet we know there aren’t enough smaller homes in England for these families to move into.”
Debilitating the debilitated
The NHF have worryingly identified that over 70,000 tenants are currently in default on their monthly rent payments due to the implementation of the new policy.
Moreover, an alarming 15% of tenants who have been hit by the policy have been said to have received mail from their landlord saying that they are close to being evicted from their property.
Recently, the policy has received a great deal of criticism for the detrimental affect it has been having on the lives of disabled people, who often require an extra room for storage purposes or a variance of other reasons.
The NHF’s Ruth Davison said: “We know that 180,000 people are under-occupying two-bedroom homes, but last year only 85,000 one-bedroom properties became available.
“Two thirds of the people affected by this, by the government’s own admission, are disabled.”
Ms Davison highlighted the case of a grandfather who is responsible for looking after his disabled son and has what is perceived to be a ëspare roomí in his home.
Ms Davison identified that this grandfather used this room to store his disabled grandsons wheelchair and medical supplies, and that it is unfair in circumstance such as these to penalise the disabled at the behest of the Treasury looking to shave money of their spending bill.
“If they’re forced to move to a smaller property, then that grandson is going to have to go into residential care at a cost of £5,000 a week.
“In what kind of world is it sense to save £14 and spend £5,000?”
The government have rejected the NHFís criticism, arguing that they have intentionally increased their levels of council tax funding in order to help societyís most vulnerable cope with the transition, and have questioned the credibility of recent allegations that councils are struggling to cope financially.
A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said:
“We have tripled the extra funding given to councils this year to £190m – some of which is specifically targeted at disabled people – and have announced that £165m will be available for councils next year to help vulnerable tenants.
“There have been many scare stories about councils running out of funding when, in fact, only a quarter of local authorities across the country made a bid for the £20m funding available to top up their discretionary housing payment allocation, and a majority of councils spent less than half of their extra funding in the first half of the financial year.”