Tuesday, 29 July 2014

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.’

Readers' comments (21)

  • Ernie Gray

    Aha the new president and his deputy have signalled the new direction and the need to give out clear messages- onward and upward..........

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Non sense policies all over the place. These individuals cannot pay the deficit when this comes into force and they simply won't. The only thing this is going to hit is housing providers who will never make enough money to regenerate housing stock.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • michael barratt

    In my understanding (please correct if I am wrong) an individual council or housing association tenant living alone in the circumstances where their children have left home will have their housing benefit clawed back irrespective of how long their have lived in their home and/or there is no suitable alternative downsized accommodation available to them

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • F451

    Interesting idea this - professionals, experts, advising politicians so that their decision making may be more appropriate. Perhaps we need a support structure behind the government. What could we call it? How about 'Civil Service?' But then this government does not want to listen to anyone other than their own rheotric driven think tanks.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • This is clearly a mechanism for forcing people out of their homes. As usual it is the stick rather than carrot approach, I think we need to consider carefully the consequences in terms of well being of individuals who have invested considerably in their homes, who have lived most of their lives in a property, it could be quite devastating if a satisfactory alternative is not available but they cannot afford to remain in their HOME. Certainly offer incentives, I know a neighbour who made the choice consciously herself to give her 3 bed up for a 2 bed flat and that home is now housing a larger family. However I think it is quite wrong to just force people who are emotionally attached to their homes, who have invested so much in it. It is easy to look at figures on a bit of paper and shuffle people around but it is not actually solving the problem satisfactorily, and not addressing the underlying problem and although alleviating the suffering of some, will simply cause more misery to others so it is not actually a solution.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Daedalus

    Just out of interest (it is obviously never going to happen), what would your views be if the government said:

    "OK, we have listened to you and anybody currently in a home will not be affected by this. However, any social tennant signing a lease from 1st April 2013 onwards will be subject to this new practice."

    As I say, it will never happen, but I would be interested to know people's views on this scenario.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • F451

    Daedalus - that would be very acceptable as the onus would be on the landlord to let responsibly.

    The downside will be where a young family may have been previously let a needs+1 property so that they did not need to be moved in a couple of years when the family grew, or where other needs or family make up change during the tenancy and the landlord does not have sufficient flexibility and capacity within their stock to continually shuffle people around to maintain the best fit.

    Three solutions present themselves:

    1. That the government cease looking to blame tenants for the government's failure to invest in new housing, housing sufficient to meet the needs and shape of modern families, housing that can be reasoanbly afforded by average incomes. None of the 3 Tory Parties seem inclined to do this.

    2. That the ruling should only be applied where the tenant has refused an available alternative property and so is deliberately under-occupying despite and alternative propety being available to them such that would have enabled them to exercise their right to family life as described in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. However, the government has already decided that tenants are not humans and therefore must not have such a right.

    3. That all existing properties are demolished and replaced with converted small sized freight containers, stacked in such a way that they can be added to or removed simply. When the membership of a household changes, a container is removed so that no extra room results. Removed containers could then be added to home-stacks where overcrowding exists. Or more seriously - adopt the practice that was common in the Middle Ages where you would rent your spare bedroom to your neighbour, who would knock through to make their home bigger - or multiple versions of such to create a thrid dwelling between the two existing. Indeed, if walls were made of card this would be easier to achieve and less costly. This is stupid enough for Shapps to think it was his own idea.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • michael barratt

    Hi Daedalus

    At least new tenants would be entering into a contract knowing that the rug could be pulled from underneath them at any time. When past governments were promoting selling off council housing to housing associations repeatedly existing tenants were assured that reduced rights only applied to new tenants. This strategy merely attempts to promote selfishness and drive a wedge between groups who are frequently disadvantaged.

    The Government is merely attempting to introduce into the home the insecurity that social tenants encounter on a daily basis in the labour market. The welfare bill is merely a strategy to motivate with a stick often low skilled workers to accept below poverty level wages without pensions, holidays or sickness pay. To reduce tax liabilities for middle to upper income groups thereby preserving their share of a shrinking economic due to UK PLC being on the rocks - Who fault is that? The Tories and their mates flying too close to the sun, Daedulus?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I think it might be helpful to look at the amendment as proposed by Lord Best and read his speech in support of it. He is a time served housing professional who knows his stuff, (like many of the noble peers)
    http://tinyurl.com/7n82kp7.

    I call his amendment the Little Nell/Tiny Tim amendment as it seems to fit the Dickens bicentenary to a tee. The only households who will benefit are the halt the lame the widows and orphans.

    “(3A) In relation to a dwelling of which the landlord is a local housing authority or a registered provider of social housing, and no suitable alternative accommodation (as defined in regulations to be made under this section, and provided by any such provider) is available, regulations under this section shall not permit the housing cost element of the universal credit to be less than the actual amount of the liability in a case where a household has no more than one spare bedroom, and—

    (a) the claimant is subject to no work related requirements in
    accordance with the provisions of section 19;
    (b) the claimant, or a child or a young person for whom either or both the claimants is responsible, is in receipt of disability living
    allowance, or personal independence payment, or attendance
    allowance or an increase of disablement pension where constant
    attendance is required; or

    (c) the claimant is a war widow or widower; or

    (d) the claimant routinely provides foster care placements.

    (3B) In subsection (3A), “claimant” means a single claimant or joint claimant.””

    and

    “ In relation to a dwelling of which the landlord is a local housing authority or a registered provider of social housing, and no suitable alternative accommodation (as defined in regulations to be made under this section, and provided by any such provider) is available, regulations under this section shall not permit the AMHB to be less than the actual amount of the liability in a case where a household has no more than one spare bedroom, and—

    (a) the claimant is subject to no work-related requirements in
    accordance with the provisions of section 11D of the Welfare Reform Act 2007;

    (b) the claimant, their partner or a child or a young person for whom
    the claimant (or their partner) is responsible, is in receipt of disability living allowance, or personal independence payment, or
    attendance allowance or an increase of disablement pension where
    constant attendance is required;

    (c) the claimant is a war widow or widower; or

    (d) the claimant or their partner routinely provides foster care
    placements.”

    The article suggest that young people over 15 are entitled to their own bedroom, however the minister has a consultation on allocations out at the moment http://tinyurl.com/6slbsqw and prefers the Bedroom standard definition of overcrowding which is stated as one bedroom for

    A married or cohabiting couple
    One adult aged 21 years or more
    A pair of adolescents aged 10-20 years of the same sex
    A pair of children aged under 10 years regardless of sex.

    So Michael in answer to your question, yes the lone householder would have to downsize unless they fit into Lord Best's categories.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Please can someone clarify something....

    the reductions in HB only apply to those of working age....so....does that mean that once you start getting pension related benefits that you get the full HB back again?

    Or does the exemption for those of pension age only apply to those in that situation at the time the legislation is passed? Meaning that once the reduction is applied - it remains whatever your circumstances?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Whilst we were responsible for voting these 'professional representatives' into office as supposedly our representatives, it would appear that without consultation with the public ( those who will be affected ) they are now trying to bring about changes that a very large majority of tenants do not want to happen, and will cause considerable distress and break up established communities all over the country Talk about the THEM AND US situation, and our MPs BEING OUT OF TOUCH with those they are supposedly meant to represent!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Usual Suspect

    Think they are meant to represent everyone Steve , not just tenants.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • What a lot of people on here are losing sight of, as much as people can point out the issues and problems, this piece of policy, along with the capping of total benefits received, largely passes the "clapham ominbus test"

    Most (working) people don't have a great deal of sympathy with people giving reasons as why they should have extra rooms if they haven't the means to pay themselves. Even many labour voters have said as much to Miliband and co, hence the relatively small amount of opposition against the cap, in principle. This will go the same way. Unfortunately it's a vote winner.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • F451

    True observation Harry - but then when you ask one of those biting at the bit supporters of Tory Policy if they've considered that they too have a spare room that they will now have to pay for, and that they too will lose access to the cut services, and that they too will lose the benefit that they take for granted, they universally reply - Oh, no, I don't think it applies to me, it only applies to the ferral scroungers one reads about in the press!

    Then of course there is the larger group of narrow minded celebrators of seeing the other done down who will be the first to complain when their life takes a down turn and there is no support for them. Even then they will see it as justifying their demanding support was taken from others.

    People with such inability to see the bigger picture and how self-damaging their views may be do not deserve the future that they are bringing upon themselves. That said, the rest of us deserve it even less.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • People on the whole are positive people, asking a working person to give serious consideration to what would happen if they were on benefits is likely to get short thrift, many don't have the mindset.

    Equally Owner Occupiers effectively tell themselves they've bought their house, even if the mortgage is only 5% paid or even in negative equity.

    This legislation is populist, and as such, tweaks are the best people can hope for.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The tories are attacking 670,000 unsuspecting council tenants
    TWICE OVER for the reason of having xtra space in their home,
    as firstly they are cutting housing benefits by £490million p.a. ,
    and then for the same reason of having xtra space in their home
    they are punishing them a second time, by cutting council tax
    benefits by £500million p.a............meaning thse tenants are
    now faced with a shortfall of £1Billion p.a.
    Parliament has suggested that local councils should offer
    these people 670,000 1 bed homes........which are not available.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • ...

    Reading between the lines here, I think our convernment has a strategy to solve the housing crisis, not by building more homes, but by making people occupy every space in their homes. Under 35's will get only enough HB for a room.....but social tenants get only enough HB to rent 1/2 their house. In the future, those without means and on an average income will simply be expected, it seems, to let rooms out.
    Speaking as an owner occupiers truggling with a stupidly large mortage on a pokey flat, I let a room out....and trust me, it's not nice having to share a toilet with a stranger!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • If this legislation is just about fairness and about taking the view that the taxpayer should not subsidise people who choose to have an empty room, then why doesn't the same principle get applied to all tenures rather than just those in rented homes.

    The income that pays for council services is affected by the amount of Council Tax paid by residents. Single adults get a discount of 25%, but why should taxpayers effectively subsidise those who choose to live on their own in family sized accommodation? Surely doing away with this would be fairer than penalising working age social tenants on benefit, who only make up a tiny proportion of all households anyway?

    I think we all know that the reason is that this government have taken a raft of measures that are anti-tenant, but wouldn't dream of upsetting the bulk of those people who they perceive as being their voters. However my suggestion would probably raise far more money than this mean minded benefit cut, whilst directly falling on those most able to pay - those not on benefit.

    Anyone who still has any doubts about the direction social housing is going in should Google "Making Housing Affordable" and read Alex Morton's disturbing view of how housing sector should develop, as published by the Policy Exchange.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Daedalus

    Yes it will be difficult.
    Yes (James Cunningham) people are being hit twice.
    Yes there will be casualties
    Yes there will be some especially deserving cases harshly disadvantaged.

    Unfortunately we (UK) are in a mess which has taken many years to create, and has had many contributing factors.

    We all need to share the pain to some extent, if we insulate a portion of society then the remaining working class fodder has to pay more. There are 670,000 affected by this. There are millions who are getting zero percent pay increases (or pay cuts) and increased pension contributions, and massive job insecurity. The majority of these 670,000 are getting a 5.2% increase in their basic income stream.

    Harsh and unfair - certainly.

    Different to the pain felt by millions of others - no.

    OK lads, time to rip me to shreds for this opinion!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • My daughter took tenancy of a privaterented 2 bedroomed house in January 2011, she as been unable to work since August 2011 due to illness. She as only been entitled to housing benefit of £48.50 towards her £80 a week rent as she is only 24.

    A claim as been put in for disablility living allowance for my daughter, if she is fortunate enough to get this will she be allowed to receive the full £80 housing benefit? as of January 2012 you have to be 35 to get full housing benefit, I am a bit confused.

    At present the council have accepted the concessionary claim put in to make up the short fall in her housing benefit and her full rent is being met by them to her landlord. The concessionary is reviewed every 3 months and the council wish to know what steps have been taken to find alternative accomodation, there are no bedsits or one bedroomed places where we live, my daughter as mental health and should not be harrassed to move home she as tried sharing and she cannot tolerate others company. The stupid thing about these stupid rules is that she is only entitled to £48.50 hosuing benefit being in a 2 bedroomed house yet if she found a 1 bedroomed or a bed sit she then gets £80 if this is the case why can she not be paid £80 for the 2 bedroomed she prersently occupies

    So if my daughter gets disability living allowance awarded whether she is under 25 or not would she be allowed to stay in her 2 bedroomed and would the £80 rent be covered by houing benefit or will she still be only entitled to £48.50?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

View results 10 per page | 20 per page | 50 per page

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

sign in register

Newsletter Sign-up

More Newsletters

Related

Articles

Resources

  • The long road to justice

    09/08/2013

    The High Court’s decision regarding the bedroom tax and disabled people is just the beginning, says Jane Plant, an associate at Weightmans

  • The key to recovery

    25/10/2013

    Can living in general needs homes give drug and alcohol abusers a better chance of recovery? Caroline Thorpe reports on the three-year pilot study in Northamptonshire that tried to find out

  • Downsizing with the bedroom tax

    17 July 2014

    The price for underoccupying a home is high for many vulnerable people. Jess McCabe visits Stoke-on-Trent to find out how landlords are attempting to help

  • Home help

    06/09/2013

    Welfare reform has piled financial pressure on tenants and their landlords alike. Alex Turner meets a former housing professional who quit her job to start a business she hopes will reduce rent arrears and improve residents’ lives

  • Reaching crisis point

    02/05/2014

    Tenants on the verge of eviction are being helped to remain in their homes by a recently formed social enterprise that is saving their landlords significant sums in the process. Daniel Douglas finds out how

IH Subscription