One year on: Bedroom tax forces households into debt

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Mick Meaney
RINF Alternative News

Since the Bedroom Tax was introduced in 2013, residents on welfare are now struggling to survive. Fearful of eviction, many have to borrow money to pay their rent and are forced to cut back on necessities such as heating and food.

According to lawmakers, it was introduced a means to reduce overcrowding by encouraging claimants to move into smaller accommodation and free-up housing for larger families.

However, the move has left many residents stranded while finding suitable accommodation, with the additional burden of the Tax.

The National Housing Federation sponsored an Ipsos survey that found that 32% of respondents have reduced food spending and 26% have cut down on heating to cope with the tax. 46% of persons surveyed said they needed to borrow money from friends and relatives or others, to pay rent and is putting them into debt.

They also found that 7 in 10 persons were anxious they might be evicted, 76% were concerned they might fall behind in rent payments and 89%, or nearly 9 in 10 are concerned about meeting living costs.

While housing benefits are available to employed and unemployed people, over half receiving the benefits are employed. Social landlords have reported many tenants in rent arrears that had never been late before. Many larger properties available are not being utilized because potential tenants are worried they will not be able to afford them with the added tax and the rising costs of other necessities.

To counteract the problems with the Bedroom Tax, housing associations have been aiding food banks to provide additional food and started projects to help renters with fuel poverty. Funding these things has cut deeply into the resources for constructing new housing. According to National Housing Federation chief executive David Orr:

“People stung by the bedroom tax are being forced to make difficult choices on which bills to pay and which essentials to go without. They are living in fear that they will lose their homes and have resorted to borrowing from friends and family to try and get by.

“Housing associations have spent millions of pounds working more closely with their tenants, introducing projects to tackle fuel poverty and working with food banks to help alleviate food poverty. But these services have costs, which leaves less money for building new homes.

“The results of our latest survey are depressing. As we feared and warned, the bedroom tax is having a disastrous impact. The only solution is to abolish this policy which fails on every level.”