The ‘tax’, which began in April, reduces the amount of housing benefit people receive if they are deemed to have more bedrooms in their property than they need. The filming was a follow-up to a piece the BBC did in March just before the new rules came into force.
As I said on camera it is still early days and of those affected, two thirds were paying the benefit shortfall while the other third were struggling to keep up with payments. While Derwent Living is affected, some providers are reporting much higher levels of arrears as a result of the reductions in housing benefit.
The teams at Derwent Living worked hard to support customers in the run up to April, making sure they aware of their options and rights to claim the benefits they are entitled to. As the Sunday Politics film shows however, the tax is clearly causing real hardship.
It’s been suggested that those affected should move. For me the idea of people moving to other accommodation as a solution is cruel and unrealistic. Since the reductions, we have assisted just five households to move to smaller accommodation, mainly because in reality people like where they live, with connections to family, schools and facilities. In addition, there are very few one bedroom properties available for those wanting to downsize.
Over the coming months we will continue to try and assist people as much as we can but ultimately if arrears levels rise then we have little option but to take legal action. The properties we own are mainly debt funded, which means that we have to pay back money on loans regardless of whether we receive rent for them or not. We also have to provide repairs and housing management services to many thousands of homes from the rental income we receive.
It’s certainly a very difficult time for those affected by the reductions, and there’s no real solution in terms of additional funding support from local authorities. The hardship fund, supposed to help those worst affected by the ‘bedroom tax’ was branded ‘inadequate’ by Chris Williamson MP in the studio interview afterwards, we’ll have to wait and see if that is the case.
You can view the whole piece including my interview at the below link for the next 6 days.