Yesterday Leeds City Council announced that it is re-designating 837 properties (out of the 57,950 it owns), reducing the number of official bedrooms they have, but campaigners say this isn’t enough to protect people from the Bedroom Tax.
As previously reported on South Leeds Life, tenants in social housing are facing cuts of between 14% and 25% to their Housing Benefit if they are deemed to have too many bedrooms. The so called “Bedroom Tax” came into effect in April this year and is estimated to affect 7,000 households in Leeds.
The said yesterday it was re-designating the number of bedrooms in a range of council homes across the city to ensure they offer the right layout and design for modern living. South Leeds Life understands that many of these properties are currently classed as 1/2 bedroom, having one proper bedroom and a box room. Those households affected by the re-designation will receive a letter explaining the situation and backdating the change to 1st April.
Councillor Peter Gruen, executive board member with responsibility for neighbourhoods, planning and support services said:
“We have looked at a number of council properties across our portfolio to ensure that they are correctly designated with the right number of bedrooms for the size and layout of the house or flat. It seems that some of the properties are not sustainable moving forward and their layout does not support the current bedroom designation.
“The move to look at this change has been in part prompted by welfare changes and looking at ways to help all tenants across the city.”
But campaign group Hands Off Our Homes have criticised the Council for not going far enough. They point to a report in the magazine Inside Housing which suggests that in some areas of the country 50% of those affected have paid nothing and ask if the Council has a Plan B. They are calling on the Council to announce that tenants will not be evicted for rent arrears caused by the Bedroom Tax.
John Davies, spokesperson for Hands Off Our Homes said:
“Tinkering with a few tenancies is not the way forward. The bedroom tax can strike any tenant of a social landlord as and when their job status, or their family size changes. The bedroom tax will lead to transient populations, a breakdown in community and extended family ties. It will force people to rely on the relatively insecure and expensive, private sector. That may be something that finds favour with the Condems in Westminster, but a Labour controlled Council should be working with all those opposed to the Tax to have the law changed.”