20/02/2012 8:32 am
With tough proposals to limit housing benefit payment for tenants who under-occupy their homes set to become law, this week we're taking a look at how the 'bedroom tax' will affect social landlords. To kick off the discussion Incommunities chief executive Geraldine Howley gives an overview of the problems the cut could cause in Bradford:
Let us know what you think of the plans, any problems they will cause in your area, and if there is anything you think social landlords should be doing to support tenants ahead of the introduction of the cuts. You can find more articles and discussion on the Focus page:
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20/02/2012 10:19 am
In Stevenage there is a shortage of accomodation suitable for elders to move onto. As a result there are a large number of elderly couples and singles living in family homes, and some of these are still council homes.
The effect in Stevenage therefore will be that many under occupiers will still not be able to move to the smaller homes that they may prefer, but will not be effected by the Bedroom Tax. Those who are still tenants though will be faced with the stark choice of paying the rent of eating as the Council can not rehouse them, unless of course they move into themore expensive and less life-preserving private sector shared accomodation that is.
Inside Housing staff post
20/02/2012 10:34 am
Thanks for that anon, it is quite hard to see how the need for a large number of families to downsize can be reconciled with the lack of suitable homes - as Geraldine Howley makes clear in her article.
One point I thought was interesting was the impact of the rules governing how many rooms tenants are allowed as children grow up.
With children aged 9 and under expected to share regardless of gender, those aged 10 to 15 expected to share with another child of the same gender, and those aged 16 upwards allowed their own room, a family could potentially have to downsize now, then move house in a few years. Moving costs could therefore outweigh any savings the family would make by downsizing.
I believe these rules already apply to families on local housing allowance in the private rented sector, does anyone know if this causes problems there?
20/02/2012 10:53 am
People will be forced into house shares, and even room shares, as the only alternative to street homelessness or comitting benefit fraud. This is a highly backward step for our society and one that could be avoided if rents were reduced to more realistic levels and housing supply increased so people could actually move into a home more closely fitting their size requirements.
Yes, the 'freed' up housing that results from this will be available to let out at 80%MR to a new family (until their make up changes) but the extra HB to fund this will totally blank out any saving from forcing out the smaller family - especially when that smaller family will either be in more expensive private rented housing or more expensive B&B temporary homeless housing.
It is a sad statement on our nation that this is not only being implemented but with the consent of the nodding classes.
20/02/2012 10:57 am
In Welwyn Garden City the only alternative is to move into private sector house conversions, renting a room in a shared house. But most of these are occupied by students so most underoccupiers will need to leave the area all together or sleep on friends' floors.
This is a terrible stab in the back of the people by the Town's MP.
20/02/2012 10:59 am
In Norfolk there simply are not any alternative properties to move into. The Wherry have built many new homes, but these are all full already. Other than pitching a tent or sleeping in the barn I will have to give up my flat and my job and see if I can find a room in the City, and live on benefits instead.
20/02/2012 12:13 pm
In St Albans there are still some bargains to be found if you are young and don't mind sharing a toilet, bathroom, and kitchen, but for the older person or families it is going to be very difficult to find an alternative home to move to, and staying put and affording the bedroom tax is not really an option.
I can see parents having to sleep on the streets whilst the children are taken into social services care - where is the financial sense in this, let alone the moral family ehtic?
20/02/2012 12:15 pm
As this move does nothing to address the economic deficit, and indeed looks likely to cause a higher demand on taxpayer funding, through higher rents requiring more benefit support and social services having more cases to support, is there any Plan A supported who can explain why this is such a good idea?
20/02/2012 1:02 pm
The government plan A is and has always been only one: to penalise social tenants for no other reasons that they are social tenants - at whatever the cost. It's called cleansing by any other name. Apparently for our goberning body homelessness and street sleeping is more civilized and morally acceptable than underpccupying. the fact that it will end up costing more to the taxpayer and has no economic advantages just does not come into it.
20/02/2012 4:19 pm
The tories are punishing council tenants TWICE OVER for having extra space in their home,firstly by cutting housing benefits by £490 million, and then for exactly the same reason they are cutting council tax benefits by £500 million p.a , meaning these tenants are facing a shortfall of £ 1Billion p.a. , which they will have to find themselves.Previously these people spent many years on a waiting list to become tenants , through their local council assessing their needs and allocating them a suitable home.If many years later their family circumstances have changed then its not their fault that their home is a different size.They may not now be able to find an empty /smaller /cheaper home nearby.
20/02/2012 4:23 pm
The Welsh Tenants Federation has suggested that a new 'Priority move-on' duty be developed to ensure that tenants who under-occupy get access to any properties first! over and above even the homeless register. Currently, around 22,000 allocations are made in Wales each year, yet only a very small percentage exchange.
If tenants who under-occupy had first choice on these properties, there wouldn't be such a large problem which has caused the UK gov to act so. (I can't) put a link on Inside Housing to our report, however, if you can google Welsh Tenants Federation, downsizing you should get a link.
We also suggest a 'whole system approach' to housing supply, utilising private rented and even owner occupied sector to enhance exchange and transfer. Revolving loans could be made available in return for better rights, housing standards, access to redress and controled rents. Ironicly, the scheme would not take up any additional homes, but give tenants better choice to downsize. The problem is that not enough is being done to give loyal existing tenants the choices they deserve. We also assume that tenants may not want to move and we found that's not always the case.
One of the other major barriers is debt, if you have debt then you can't move! so you're under-occupied in debt, burning money on fuel and bedrooms you don't need or indeed want.
We need more efficient use of the stock that we have, the only way we can do that is to think out of the box! Not just take the lazy option and tax tenants into eviction!
20/02/2012 7:52 pm
The “Room without Benefit” is a campaign that has been running through 2011 & 2012 on the Bed Room Tax and research by a large housing association suggests: around a third of tenants will seek to move, although the restricted availability of one bed properties means very limited opportunity those seeking a private rented home would face a rent increase and a similar increase in housing benefit.
Those who stay put will have to cope with reduced income levels – nearly 30% of weekly disposable income for single job-seekers, causing significant hardship for people already coping in a low-income community, residents suggest harsh choices will be made between paying their rent and basic necessities, increased rent arrears and bad debts will lead to higher levels of eviction,
While one government department of Work and Pensions introduces it, its sister department, the Department for Communities and Local Government, is trying to squeeze every drop of financial capacity from landlords so they build more homes to address the housing crisis. Not a great example of joined up Government or strategic thinking.
The Government is proposing to reduce housing benefit for working age tenants who under-occupy their homes. This will catch nearly 700,000 tenants, most of whom have one spare bedroom by the Government’s definition – although in reality this is often used for normal family life such as enabling teenage children to have separate bedrooms, separated fathers to have regular overnight access to their children, and heroic couples to foster.
The effect of this will be entirely predictable. Faced with a reduction in benefit of 14 – 25%, there will be a rush of working age tenants seeking to downsize – albeit reluctantly - even though there is a nationwide shortage of smaller homes.
Inevitably councils and housing associations will prioritise tenants who will otherwise struggle to pay their rent, meaning that elderly under-occupiers who actually want to move will hardly get a look in. Whilst for pensioners housing benefit may be protected, many will be left rattling around in larger family houses which are expensive to heat, and unsuited to their needs as they become infirm.
The overall picture is of some households with a genuine need for extra accommodation having to move to avoid the cuts, with many more staying put, with significant consequences for their own household income, and indirectly, for the income streams of their landlords. At the same time elderly households with a real need to move will be denied the opportunity. This is likely to undermine community sustainability and disrupt important family support networks.
It is the lack of social housing being built by councils in general over the decades has left HA's and private developers to build housing but with the change from a grant based system to a revenue based building system, social housing is now afforable housing will make the matters even worse. The bed room taxing the poor to make up for the lack of more social housing supply.
21/02/2012 10:24 am
It is interesting that none of the many Tory apologists, who elsewhere chomp at the bit to say how fair the benefit punishments and tenants taxes are, have been strangely silent when asked to contribute real effects in their area or within their housing provider, in terms of the legislation in real terms effecting real people.
Where are those normally strident individuals with their examples of how these pieces of legislation are going to help people - or is it because they know that the reality is that their government is destroying people and families, condeming the poor to even greater suffering simply so that they themselves can hope for the promise of a little tax cut somewhere along the way.
21/02/2012 10:38 am
Would be keen to get as much research from social landlords on this issue up here today. Riverside Group has just sent detailed research through to me on Twitter which takes a detailed look at the impact of changes on under-occupying tenants in one neighbourhood in Tranmere and Rock Ferry - which has around 2,500 social rented homes.
It has 421 tenants in the area - one in four of whom it has worked out will be affected by housing benefit cuts to under-occupiers of working age. It says nearly nine in ten of these under-occupy by one bedroom.
It says that if Riverside made all of its one bedroom vacancies available exclusively for its downsizing tenants, then the process would take six years. The implication, it states, is that tenants face a move into the private rented sector - at an average rent increase of £2.68 a week (handily housing benefit will cover the increase) - or the majority of tenants will stay put. It says this means they will have to 'cope with significantly reduced income levels - nearly 30 per cent of weekly disposable income in the case of a single person job seeker'.
It adds: 'This will cause significant hardship for households already living in a low income community, with residents suggesting that harsh choices will have to be made between basic necessities and paying the rent'.
For the full report see: http://bit.ly/ysEeiw
The full report is well worth a read - although the information in it is far from comforting. Again, would be good to get as much detailed information as possible from other landlords on this so we can build up as accurate a picture as possible about the issues facing them and their tenants. Would be great if people could post below setting out their experiences. Apparently there is a problem pasting links in the forum so if people want to email me the information I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
21/02/2012 10:58 am
The research into Tranmere and Rock Ferry fed into a wider piece of work by the Housing Futures Network.
This research also looked at areas including Lee (Lewisham), Clayton Brook (Chorley) and Low Ford (Sunderland). It found that 32 per cent of tenants in these areas would be likely to seek a move to a smaller home but there was 'a substantial mismatch between the availability of one-bedroom homes and the number of households requiring them'.
In Sunderland it found that 'more than eight years' worth of one-bed relets would be required' to rehouse all the under-occupiers. It adds that 'it will therefore be impossible for many social landlords to offer most under-occupying tenants a chance to move anywhere smaller in the forseeable future'.
It adds that: 'the reforms are likely to result in social landlords in all parts of England substantially altering their allocation policies to avoid the risk of a housing benefit shortfall, meaning that working-age single people and couples without children will have substantially less chance of being housed'.
This is the link to the report:http:/bit.ly/xwe0Lt
Looking at some of the above comments it would indeed also be great if supporters of the reforms posted with ideas about how social landlords should help their tenants if they are under-occupying on this scale. Is it just the case that tenants should pay up - in which case it is easy to see why the reform is increasingly referred to as the bedroom tax - or are there immediate options available that will not result in the HB bill increases?
21/02/2012 11:57 am
Places for People is another of the landlords to have taken part in the research. In Clayton Brook it has 926 social rented properties - 23 per cent of which are occupied by tenants of working age in receipt of HB who are under-occupying their home by one or more bedroom.
It says that the 'main reason for under-occupation appears to be the mismatch betwen the size of households and the available properties'. 32 per cent of the tenants have been in their homes for more than ten years and ten per cent have been in them for more than 20 years.
Given the availability of one bed homes it says the 'main downsizing move that would be likely to result from the housing benefit cuts would be from a two bedroom social rented home to a one bedroom private rented home within LHA limits. This would result in an increase in housing benefit claimed from £74 to £81 a week.'
One in five of the households it identified as under-occupying had children aged under 16 living in the household.
21/02/2012 2:07 pm
Of course, every relet following a downsizing will be at 80%MR, accelerating the government's abolition of social housing and massively increasing the cost to rent. Thus the outcome of this government measure will be primarily persons dependent on even higher amounts of benefit, trapped in Shapps Housing, and persons dependent on even higher amounts of benefit, trapped in private housing.
If this is about giving tenants options then it seems 'choose which tenure you wish to be trapped into and then have the government point at you as the cause of economic blight!'
If people are to be punished for underoccupation then the government should allow them time to seek out realistic alternatives - and at least morally the government should be making some attempt to improve the housing supply so that some realistic alternatives exist - but then that would spoil their evil plan, wouldn't it.
21/02/2012 5:01 pm
The vast majority of comments I've read on here about these plans have been totally against the policy full stop. Well I am happy to say that I completely agree with it - and no I am not a Tory apologist.
Perhaps it would help if those against it could say something about their own situation, as its obvious what the people deemed 'under occupying' will think. Or the housing staff who to have these difficult conversations which they've avoided for years. Personally, I've lived in social housing most of my life. I now occupy a one bedroom property and do not receive HB.
The estate where I live is a prime example of why I support this policy. It has a good mix of nearly 400 properties, about half are one bed flats and bugalows the rest 'family homes'. On my street about 90% of the houses are under occupied by older people. Where is the sense in that? There are plenty of one bed homes for them here but they simply refuse to move. So despite what some posts on here say about older people not getting a look in, that is not the case where I live. In the 10years I've lived here, not a single older person has downsized. This is despite there being 'moving deals' offered by my landlord.
Now not many years ago the landlord had an idea to demolish some of the one bed properties and guess what? Build more family homes!! So can someone who disagrees with this policy please explain why is it logical to demolish one bed homes when there are ample family homes that just happen to be under occupied? That is not logical at all.
So putting that aside I appreciate there is also an ethical element to this policy argument. Now in an ideal world there would be enough homes to house everyone wherever they wanted to live. The problem is we simply do not live in a perfect world. Therefore, there is quite a simple way to look at this. Why should someone be allowed to have the benefit of a family home they no longer require? Just because they qualified for it 20+ years ago does not mean they have a moral right to stay. What about the rights of all those families languishing on waiting lists?
If you apply for any state benefit and your circumstances change then your entitlement to that benefit stops or changes. Why is social housing any different? No one is suggesting forcing people to move out of their home onto the streets. The state is still going to provide a decent home for these people. Alot of people use very emotive language when discussing this policy instead of sticking to the facts.