Tenants face £26 a week cut for under-occupation
Social tenants on housing benefit who are deemed to be under-occupying their homes stand to lose up to £26.65 a week under government plans.
The National Housing Federation has calculated households with a three-bedroom home in London who are deemed to only need one bedroom would lose £1,385 a year under proposals in the Welfare Reform Bill.
The government’s own impact assessment of the under-occupation policy, published in February, found the average cut would be £13 a week for those affected, but the NHF’s analysis highlights the extent of the cuts some families could face.
Using the latest government figures, and working on the assumption that benefits will be cut by 15 per cent for over-occupation of one bedroom and 25 per cent for two bedrooms, the federation has calculated the average cut will be £645.84 a year for tenants who have one spare room, and £1,076 for those with two spare rooms. Its calculations are based on three-bedroom homes.
The federation also identifies large regional variations in the cuts, with the figures at the lower 15 per cent rate ranging from £534.66 a year in the north east to £831.36 in London (see table below).
Of the 670,000 working-age claimants who will be affected, 78 per cent over-occupy by one room, and 22 per cent by two or more rooms. The overall figure for those affected is expected to rise to 760,000 by 2020 due to an increase in the retirement age.
The rules state one bedroom is allowed for each person or couple in a household. Children under the age of 15 are expected to share with one other child of the same gender, and those under the age of nine are expected to share with one other child regardless of gender.
The federation is lobbying the government to water down its proposals when the Welfare Reform Bill reaches report stage in the House of Lords, which is due on 12 December. Crossbench peer Lord Best has tabled an amendment calling for families to be allowed one extra bedroom on top of those they are deemed to require.
Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has suggested the government may be prepared to give some ground on the issue.
David Orr, chief executive of the federation, said: ‘We have been deeply concerned about this bedroom tax for some time but these new figures show the damage will be far worse than previously thought.
‘Thousands of hard-up families face penalties of up to £1,400 a year simply because the government have deemed their homes are suddenly too big for their needs.
‘This will have disastrous implications for a huge numbers of people already struggling to make ends meet in the tough economic climate, including foster carers, grandparents, disabled people and smaller families.’
Regional breakdown of the housing benefit cuts
|Homes||Existing rent||15% of existing rent||25% of existing rent|
|Yorkshire & Humberside||123,935||69.99||3,639.50||10.50||545.93||17.50||909.88|
Source: National Housing Federation. Combined 3 bedroom rents - HA and LA (31/3/2011 RSR, 1/4/11 LA advanced Subsidy Return)