Wednesday, 05 August 2015

Government urged to rethink bedroom tax

The Chartered Institute of Housing has urged the government to make concessions to its plans for a ‘bedroom tax’ after the latest Welfare Reform Bill defeat.

On Monday peers in the House of Lords voted through an amendment to the bill that would exempt some vulnerable groups from the proposals to cut housing benefit for working age social households that are deemed to be underoccupying their home.

The government has said it will overturn the amendment when the bill returns to the House of Commons. MPs have already thrown out an earlier Lords amendment that would have made households exempt from the cut if they only have one spare room or no suitable smaller homes are available.

The institute is calling on the government to review its proposals in the light of the opposition demonstrated in the House of Lords.

Under the plans working age social households in receipt of housing benefit would see their payments cut if they are deemed to be underoccupying their home. The cuts are expected to amount to 15 per cent of housing benefit for one spare bedroom, rising to 25 per cent for two.

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.

Grainia Long, interim chief executive of the CIH, said: ‘The Lords have twice backed amendments to reform this wrong-headed measure; there is explicit support for a different approach from more than 70 organisations; and we have heard emotional illustrations of the likely unavoidable impact of these reforms on low income households up and down the country.

‘We need government to sit down again with housing professionals to take on board the reality on the ground in the design of the legislation. Only by drawing on the experience of those who provide social housing, some of which informed the Lords debate last night, will government be able to deliver a system of help with housing costs that actually works.’

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