Posted by: Carl Brown02/03/2012
So after weeks of ‘ping-ponging’ between the two houses of parliament and months of, at times, ferocious debate, the welfare reform bill is finally on the verge of becoming an act.
It would be tempting to think royal assent will draw a line under the controversial bill, which is aimed at simplifying and reducing benefits, but for social landlords the hard work starts now.
Lord David Freud, in parliament two week ago attempted to rubbish suggestions that social landlords will have to ‘employ an army of snoopers’ to work out who is going to be hit by the ‘bedroom tax’ for underoccupying social tenants. The welfare reform minister said this is not the case as the department for work and pensions will rely on tenants to report their circumstances to the government.
However, this is to miss the point.
A significant proportion of the 670,000 tenants expected to be hit by the tax will find it more difficult to pay their rent – leading to an increased likelihood of arrears.
Social landlords, now that any hope of watering down the tax has gone, need to start identifying where their affected tenants are, and how many of them there are.
Landlords can only be confident they have put adequate resources in place to cope with increased arrears if they can predict the impact.
For this reason the tax is not only a cost for tenants, but will also have a financial impact on councils and housing associations which need to find more money to prevent or mitigate against arrears.
Lord Freud’s agreement to a research project to monitor the impact of the policy is welcome, but social landlords should be under no illusions about the task they now face.
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