Saturday, 28 February 2015

Housing chief fires 'bedroom tax' warning

The proposed ‘bedroom tax’ on underoccupied homes could create more problems if a lack of affordable housing is not addressed, a housing chief has warned.

Bob Taylor, chief executive of Knowlsey Housing Trust, said that the continued debating of the ‘bedroom tax’ was masking problems around the supply of affordable homes and that wider welfare reforms may lead to a different housing crisis over the next 20 years.

Mr Taylor said: ‘While trying to resolve existing problems, we could be creating further problems for the future.

‘It is about providing the right new homes and making the best use of existing homes so that we maximise the numbers of people who can live comfortably and acceptably in the homes available.

‘A bedroom tax won’t release homes easily, and people on benefit will then find themselves worse off.

‘While this is going back and forth between the House of Lords and House of Commons it is masking the real issue – the lack of affordable houses of all sizes.’

Mr Taylor said the proposed ‘bedroom tax’ could create problems unless there is an increase in the supply of smaller homes.

He said: ‘This is likely to lead to building more of the type of homes that we probably don’t need and not enough of those that we do, such as those suitable for young singles and older people.

‘We need to make sure that any money saved through welfare reform is invested in the right kinds of properties that will meet demand for affordable homes for decades to come.’

Readers' comments (56)

  • F451

    Seems to just about sum things up - why can't the politicians understand this?

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  • The tories are punishing 670,000 unsuspecting council tenants
    TWICE OVER with their bedroom tax,to cause these people great
    personal instability and hugh financial difficulty.
    The tories are firstly cutting housing benefit by £490million p.a.
    for tenants who have extra space in their home, but they are then
    also cutting council tax benefit by £500million p.a for these people
    for exactly the same reason of having this extra space.
    This means that these tenants are going to have to make
    up a shortfall of £1Billion p.a.
    These people have previously been on a waiting list,and
    at that time been allocated a correct size of property,
    so its not their fault that they now have a different size
    of family,to be punished with this financial cost.

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  • michael barratt

    Clegg and Cameron acting like political bovver boys can stomp on the vulnerable and disadvantage in respect to the welfare bill with apparent impunity because the 'battlers' are in effect disenfranchised. However it is a different matter when they pick on the BMA and the Royal College of Nursing concerning NHS 'reforms'.

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  • There is an issue of fairness here - tenants in the private sector cannot get Housing Benefit for unoccupied bedrooms, so why should public sector tenants get it when others cannot?

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  • michael barratt

    MJA I agree there is unfairness for tenants living in the private rental sector after living maybe in the same home for many years are obliged to give up that home if one of their children leaves home and they cannot make up the HB shortfall. However, I cannot see the benefit in a race to the bottom of unfairness that you seem to propose.

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  • Gavin Rider

    The "bedroom tax" argument is a distraction. The real issue is, as Bob Taylor has so succinctly put it, about "providing the right new homes and making the best use of existing homes".

    I would go further and say that it is about putting the right number of the right type of homes in the right places.

    Unfortunately, Bob Taylor then destroys the value of his easily understandable point, by making a completely ungrounded and sweeping assessment of what housing he thinks is needed, and he gets it glaringly wrong.

    The most serious and growing need in social housing is for larger homes with more bedrooms. The reason for this is that it is perfectly acceptable for a family to live in "unsuitable" accommodation that is oversized, but it is not acceptable for them to live in undersized accommodation.

    That point is at the heart of this debate about under occupation.

    Policy Exchange carried out a detailed study of housing needs in the social sector and produced a report identifying that for many years we have been building "The Wrong Houses". We need more larger homes to relieve overcrowding, and by allowing larger households to move into more appropriate accommodation we would produce more vacant smaller properties.

    Building one new larger social home can trigger a cascade of household moves within the social housing stock which satisfies up to five cases of housing need in one go. Building more two-bed flats for single occupation by stark contrast only satisfies housing need on a one-to-one basis.

    Therefore, Bob Taylor's contention that we need to build more small properties suitable for individuals is misguided. We need more large properties (which are now not being built in the social sector because of housing benefit being capped) and we need to promote more fluidity in the social housing sector to ensure that the stock we do have is being used efficiently.

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  • Gavin Rider

    Michael - the fairness issue is at the heart of this discussion. Those who have been receiving benefit (whether they needed it or not) will always complain that they are being treated "unfairly" if it is taken away.

    I felt the same way when MIRAS was abolished!

    But taking the sentiments of the individual out of the equation about what is right and wrong, surely it is wrong for a tenant to expect to receive taxpayer support to allow them to continue living in a larger home than they actually need, purely because they have already been living there for a long time (and have benefitted from public financial support for it for a long time already)?

    This is not about a race to the bottom of unfairness, as you put it, it is about returning social provision that has a severely limited capacity to a more equitable standing, so that those in real hardship are not forced to remain in that condition purely because of not wanting to harm the "comfort factor" for other more lucky tenants who have already been receiving more than their fair share of benefit (in the widest sense) for many years.

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  • michael barratt

    Gavin, When you are poor the slightest change in your circumstances can send your life into chaos, certainty is necessary to live an ordered life to bring your children up with a chance in life. Families living in social housing mostly treat their accommodation as their homes and invest their often meagre resources to improve those homes over the years. The Libcons Government are clearing neighbourhoods and cities by engaging in social cleansing without thought of the individuals and children affected or the social consequences down the road of their policies and actions.

    Incidentally, small one bedroomed accommodation have in the most part been intended to accommodate elderly people living sedentary lives with little room to 'swing a cat' perhaps assuming that old people need as little distance as possible between their TV set and the kitchen back to their chair and at the end of the day on to their bedroom. From personal experience the sound proofing in many of those flats is appalling.

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  • Gavin Rider

    Michael - I fully understand the position of social housing tenants who have lived in the family home for a long time. I was in that position myself, because I grew up in social housing and my mother lived in the same home for 53 years, from new. Absolutely I understand the attachment.

    But when comparing the needs of families who are living in unaffordable, substandard or overcrowded accommodation with the needs of families who have been living very comfortably for a long time and are hanging on to their oversized accommodation purely out of a sense of personal attachment to it, then I have to say that the outcome should be obvious.

    I don't believe the discussion was about the quality of the special housing that has been built for the elderly, was it? The discussion is about whether it is right for people to be living in oversized social housing that they don't actually need when there are others in desperate need of such housing.

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  • michael barratt

    Gavin. The point being made is couples and many disabled persons for example are likely be forced to downsize size to totally inappropriate single bedroom accommodation if at all available.

    Again and again, we return to the need for investment and to embark upon large scale building of council homes and niche housing association projects. Not the Libcon way to cause social division, to continually demonise and punish the socially disadvantaged. I have some of the Second World War and certainly how tough the life was in early post war years yet there were undertaken extensive home building programmes in spite of severe austerity.

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