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Bedroom Tax: Can't Pay, Can't Move

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The government's vile and vindictive Bedroom Tax is leaving thousands of tenants in limbo.

Before I start I would urge anyone who is affected by the bedroom tax to speak to a housing expert. Most local authorities have a welfare rights department which are generally empathetic to tenants needs. If you haven't already, please apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment from your Local Authority and regardless of if your landlord has a 'no eviction' policy, it is essential for you to stay in touch with your landlord.

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The UK's housing system is in crisis due to a lack of housing stock. Shelter estimates that there is a need for 250,000 new homes to be build per year and that is just for England alone. It is pretty much universally accepted that successive governments did not find building homes politically-attractive and, due to the short-sighted ineptitude, there are simply not enough homes especially in the social sector.

So how does the Tory-led government tackle the housing shortage crisis? Do the listen to housing and business experts and build more homes? No, they ignored these experts. Their solution to the housing shortage crisis is to manipulate the benefits system so that tenants on a low incomes pay for the housing crisis via cuts to Housing Benefit.

Attempting to improve the housing system by cutting housing benefit to certain households is a ridiculous notion. Housing Benefit is a 'progressive and efficient' benefit; it is means-tested and can quickly be transferred when the tenant moves home, thus improving social mobility. The Bedroom Tax and it's private sector equivalent, Local Housing Allowance, relies on arbitrary rules which restricts social mobility and attacks tenants under the false pretence that tenants who are 'under-occupied' are compounding the housing crisis by refusing to move into more suitable sized homes.

Subsequent FOI requests have revealed that 96% of those affected by the bedroom tax are unable to downsize due to insufficient housing stock in their area. That means that 96% of those households affected by this policy have no choice to pay the extra rent, whether they can afford it or not.

The simple fact is that there are not enough suitable sized housing stock in the social sector for those who are 'under-occupying' to move into. The government knew this before the implemented the bedroom tax, they knew that some tenants would be unable to pay the extra rent and unable to downsize homes. Their advice to tenants showed how out of touch the government is, tenants were expected to take in a lodger and/or work extra hours. Considering that many tenancy agreement forbid sub-letting, this is a hare-brained idea that is potentially dangerous to some tenants. While the advice to work more hours when we are in the greatest depression of the jobs market for a generation is simply callous and idiotic.

The extraordinary rise in the cost of living is hitting those on the lowest income the hardest. With rising energy prices, rising food prices and rises to basic goods and services, some tenants can NOT afford to pay the extra rent incurred by the bedroom tax thus bringing the spectre of eviction to the lives of thousands of tenants who have never been in arrears in their life.

This can be shown by the soaring rent arrears in the social sector since April. Research by the TUC show that one in three tenants affected by the bedroom tax are now in arrears while research by COSLA show that local authorities will lose £20million due to the bedroom tax in this financial year. This increase in rent arrears is happening in England and Wales also.

What the bedroom tax has created is thousands of tenants who 'Can't Pay, Can't Move'. This is the nastiness of the Tory Party in action. The government is aware of this situation but they appear to think that this is acceptable ramification for a policy that they tell us is based on 'fairness'.

The bedroom tax makes absolutely no sense on a political sense. It worsens our housing crisis, attacks jobs and services and expects those on the lowest income to pay the price for the government's incompetency with our housing system. It is not more that another aspect of Osbornomics and a government that defends big business and the City of London while implementing punitive policies which attack some of the most vulnerable and lowest paid tenants in our society.

For the sake of the tenants who are now in limbo and fearful of eviction, REPEAL the bedroom tax and build more new housing in the social sector!!

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