How do you think Bristol could mitigate the effects of Bedroom Tax?

The UK government is introducing a wide range of welfare reforms, one of the measures which took effect on April 1st 2013 is a reduction in housing benefit  for social housing tenants of working age who are deemed to be under-occupying their home.  This has become popularly known as the “Bedroom Tax”.

Ministers argue the changes will encourage people to downsize to smaller properties, and in doing so, help cut the £23bn annual bill for housing benefit, free up living space for overcrowded families, and encourage people to get jobs.

This change to Housing Benefit Entitlement  means tenants  receive less in housing benefit if they  live in a housing association or council property that is deemed to have one or more spare bedrooms. Having one spare bedroom  means that tenants  lose 14% of  their entitled housing benefit and having two or more spare bedrooms  means a loss of  25%.

It is estimated that 3500 Council tenants have been affected by this reform and have had their housing benefit reduced by between £10 per week (if they are under-occupying by one bedroom) and £20 per week (if they are under-occupying by two bedrooms). They are required to make up this shortfall from other income.

The situation is particularly difficult in  Bristol because  of the shortage of affordable housing in particular one-bedroom properties for those who want to be rehoused in a property with sufficient rooms to meet their needs.  The range of current mitigation measures include budgeting advice, financial help through the Discretionary Housing Payments fund and assistance with moving.

On March 20th the Mayor George Ferguson announced “that the Council will not evict any tenants for arrears they build up due to a genuine inability to pay this new sum until a cross-party working group has had time to examine the issue and propose a sustainable way forward.”

The Council has now called on the Mayor

  1. to commit to a continuation of the ‘no eviction’ policy he announced in April for those impacted by this legislation;
  2. to instruct Housing Officers to review our local definition of a ‘bedroom’ and re-classify all small box rooms of small upstairs rooms as ‘non bedrooms’;
  3. to instruct Housing Officers to ensure no second rooms on ground floors are considered to be a bedroom but are categorised as an extension of general living space;

The cross-party working group which the Mayor mentioned has been meeting since July to gain an understanding of the issues and review the social and economic impact on individuals, households, communities, organisations effected by the legislation. Once they have considered the evidence they will report their recommendations to the Mayor.

The group is keen to hear from the general public about how they have been affected by the under-occupancy charge and what measures the Council and its partners could introduce to mitigate its effects.

 

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20 thoughts on “How do you think Bristol could mitigate the effects of Bedroom Tax?

  1. Cost of building a one bed flat per square foot is higher than a two bed flat.

    Reasons, bathroom, kitchen,living room, access, servicing, has to be built for both, Therefore
    to build the single bedroom which requires the same infrastructure costs more per square foot than each of the two bedrooms with the same infrastructure.

    It makes less economic sense to build one bedroom flats. One bedroom also limits the development of family life and goes against the mantra of family and marriage. What is
    the cost of both these considerations to the nation ?

  2. Getting a bit fed up with all the nonsense from so called lefties.
    The policy is to promote movement of the property to meet the simple needs of everybody who cannot afford to buy their own accomadtion. Ignoring the norm most working people where you start in a flat, move into a cheap terrace then if they are lucky to have children then up size if they need extra rooms if they can afford it. Then and this is portant when the family finally leaves home they down size to reduce outgoings or move to something smaller they can maintain. Why they believe the tax payer should pay for new multi bedrooms houses at £220 per month or even free is beyond me. If they really think the tax payers are going to fund housing for whoever knocks on the council housing department most be living in another world . Perhaps they should all move to Greece so they see what happens if you spend more than you take in Taxes.

    • The problem lies with poor housing policy on the part of government – Conservative and Labour – for the past 30 years. As a result, we have a housing shortage but more importantly, no long term, viable housing policy. Initiating a policy that penalises one sector of the housing market – namely people in social housing – is clearly discriminatory and unjust, and does not address the problem. It seems doubly unjust to blame those people who are suffering great hardship and stress as a result of this ill-thought-through and unworkable policy. To have compassion and concern about the plight of others does not indicate that I am a ‘leftie’ but a decent human being.
      Dr Pamela Trevithick

      • Dear leftie
        I can never understand why you and others think that all people who live in so called social housing are suffering from some form of hardship and stress. There are a substantial number of people living in some form of Social housing in the Bristol area and I am sure all are not suffering and some may even be offended by your comments.
        The reason there are not enough houses being built is very simple, its almost impossible for large areas of land to be built due to the level of resistance from both the lefties and the liberals and greens. It takes years to go through the process and the success rate is very poor.
        It is because of this land prices where houses could be built are high and this reflects in the high price of the houses. Only recently BCCC suggest a area of land in my local area next to the railway lines could be used for housing. Almost at a blink of an eye the local elected Tory Councillor agreed and the candidates for the next election were indicating their opposition.
        We need a flexible approach to housing, making the best use of our existing stock and a vigorous approach to new builds with clear areas set aside for building and accelerated program of private house building.
        The current piece meal approach has never worked and only prolongs the agony.

        • What proportion of the national budget is allocated to housing compared with other developed
          countries ? If this was known it would be easier to judge the importance a government or country gives to its housing needs. It would also be interesting if there was a rating system to judge the quality of housing provided by individual countries in the developed world. There was recently a league rating literacy/numeracy, why not housing as well?

  3. That eerily reminds me of the window tax in some continental countries in the times of absolutism. You can still see the results to this day in the old quarters of cities that haven’t been bombed … A tax on sleeping is what everyone’s waited for soooo long …

  4. So all is well and good for the Council tenants? Private tenants on benefit fare less well by being unable to pay their full rent. Solution for them is likely eviction as there is a exceptional shortage of one bedroomed flats available and thus those values have risen above the rent stop permitted.
    Some Housing associations faced with mounting rent arrears have moved their offending tenants onto a ‘licence’ tenancy thus ending their right to buy where properties were transferred from the Council stock.
    Redland, Cotham and Kingsdown tenants now forced into arrears will be evicted or transferred to areas like Kingswood and the vacated stock rented back at ‘affordable’ rather than ‘social’ rent levels.

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