5:22pm Saturday 23rd February 2013
IT’S the controversial new scheme aimed to cut housing waiting lists and put families in the size of homes they need.
But some say it is a tax that will hit the pockets of thousands of Hampshire’s poorest and most vulnerable people, and even could force many to move home.
The Government’s new so called “bedroom tax” will cut the housing benefit of people living in council or social housing by the number of ‘spare bedrooms’ in their homes.
Homes with one spare bedroom will see their benefits cut by 14 per cent of the total rent paid per week.
That means if a family has rent of £115 a week and one spare bedroom, they will lose £16.10.
Meanwhile if a family had two spare bedrooms they would have their benefits cut by 25 per cent – a loss of £28.75.
Local authorities are advising tenants to compensate for the financial blow by increasing their income, taking in lodgers or moving to smaller houses.
The scheme is targeted at those residents who are of working age so pensioners currently in housing association or council homes will not be affected.
Opponents say the tax, which is being introduced on April 1, will leave affected families with less money to live on.
Tenants with disabilities will also be subject to the penalty, unless a bedroom is used by a non-resident carer who stays overnight.
And, faced with a change to council tax benefits meaning the poorest households in the country will be forced to pay council tax for the first time, some are warning that many face a ‘double impact’ on their bills from April onwards.
The Government says the tax will move people from homes which are too big so people in overcrowded accommodation can have more space, and cut the cost of welfare.
An estimated total of 5,582 households across Hampshire are likely to be affected by the bedroom tax, with 2,064 of those in Southampton.
Southampton Itchen MP John Denham called for a rethink by Westminster.
He said: “For the first time in my 20 years as an MP I have felt it necessary to organise a special benefits advice surgery because we are so worried about the number of people who will be bearing up to this tax.
“It is going to have a devastating effect.
“Some people are saying they will have to change their homes, but there’s a shortage of homes for them to go to.
“Others say they will be forced to take out loans and potentially get into debt trouble.
“The Government should have a rethink on this – it’s quite clear that this has turned out to be a lot more complicated than they thought.”
Gary Edwards, from the Southampton Advice and Representation Centre (SARC), said the organisation had already been visited by “dozens” of people worried by the impending tax.
He said: “The Government has said there is going to be some additional transitional money available to people in the form of a discretionary payment, for those in extreme circumstances, but that is only a short-term measure.
“I have already seen people about the changes, and there is some anxiety there.”
A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said: “We are providing councils with £155m this year to support people and vulnerable groups who might be affected by these changes.
“We need to ensure a better use of social housing when over a quarter of a million tenants are living in overcrowded homes and two million are on housing waiting lists across the country.”
If you have any concerns contact Southampton City Council advice line 023 8083 4919.
Local authorities estimate the number of households affected are:
WHAT DOES THE BEDROOM TAX MEAN TO YOU? CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT
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