Crucial vote on bedroom tax imminent
Housing organisations are lobbying peers ahead of a crucial Lords vote this evening on controversial plans for a ‘bedroom tax’.
The government is proposing that housing benefit be reduced for working-age tenants who are underoccupying the homes. Under the plans households will be deemed to be underoccupying if they have one spare room.
An amendment to the Welfare Reform Bill, tabled by crossbench peer Lord Richard Best, calls for social housing tenants to be allowed to have one spare room before the penalty applies. The amendment would be a compromise between the current situation in which there is no restriction of benefit for underoccupying tenants and the government’s proposals.
The National Housing Federation and the Scottish Federation of Housing Association are urging peers to back the amendment. The NHF says the government plans as they stand would see 670,000 households facing benefit cuts averaging £676 per year from April 2013.
Maureen Watson, policy and strategy director at SFHA, said: ‘This is possibly the last opportunity to amend the Welfare Reform Bill to prevent some gross unfairness to particular groups of tenants in Scotland and elsewhere.’
The federations say there are insufficient homes available for underoccupying tenants to move in to, meaning tenants will lose benefit, potentially putting them into arrears. Sector figures are also concerned that households which need a spare room for health reasons, or for other specific reasons, such as fostering children, would be unfairly penalised.
Inside Housing understands the government will not be supporting the amendment but Lord Best said he is ‘pretty optimistic’ that peers will vote for it.
Much will depend on the number of Liberal Democrat peers who are willing to abstain from the vote or back the amendment.
The amendment is due to be debated in the House of Lords from 3.30pm today.