Bedroom tax will hit those already struggling to pay rent

By Ian Dipple Friday 22 February 2013 Updated: 22/02 10:04

ALMOST a quarter of council tenants set to be hit by the Government's 'bedroom tax' are already struggling to pay their rent.

More than 500 people across the borough will see their housing benefit reduced from April for having a property deemed too big for them.

In total 417 people will see their benefit cut by 14 per cent or almost £511 a year for having one spare room with another 114 losing 25 per cent or over £952 a year.

In future only one bedroom will be allowed for every adult, couple or person over 16, one bedroom for any two children under ten and one bedroom for any two children of the same sex aged less than 16.

Officers from Redditch Borough Council have been visiting tenants affected to offer support to try and lessen the impact of the changes.

Research released to the Standard revealed 23 per cent due to lose money are already in rent arrears, while close to a third said they had no idea how they were going to cope.

Almost a fifth wanted help to move to another property while 29 per cent said they will attempt to manage.

Rebecca Blake, Labour's Parliamentary spokeswoman for Redditch, said the changes would lead to a rise in homelessness and urged the Government to use money from the sale of 4G mobile phone licences to build 100,000 more affordable homes.

"The 'bedroom tax' assumes people who have a spare room can simply move to a smaller property, but in Redditch the reality is we do not have those smaller properties to give," she said.

"Taking housing benefit from people who can downsize is one thing, taking money away from people who have no viable alternative is quite another.

"For people who cannot move, losing £18.31 a week could see families becoming homeless, that doesn't help them or the welfare bill."

Redditch MP Karen Lumley said currently one third of working age social housing tenants were living in accommodation too big for their needs while 250,000 families were in overcrowded accommodation with another five million on waiting lists.

"Taxpayers, including social housing tenants, are effectively paying for around a million unused bedrooms. I feel asking those with extra space to choose either a reduction in housing benefit or to move to smaller properties is not only necessary, but fair. This is already what happens with privately rented accommodation," she said.

She added the Government had made £50million available which councils could allocate to difficult cases that arise and foster and overnight carers would be among those exempt.

"The Government has put aside huge money for the building of new homes but even the most ambitious program would not entirely solve the current housing shortage," Mrs Lumley added.

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