Councillor Paul Truswell told a meeting in Middleton on Friday that Leeds City Council is looking at re-designating properties to help tenants affected by the Bedroom Tax.
From April households who are deemed to have too many bedrooms will face a reduction in their Housing Benefit of 14% – 25%. Those affected by the so-called Bedroom Tax will have to make up their rent from other benefits or go into rent arrears.
Councillor Truswell was responding to a suggestion that Leeds follow Knowsley Housing Trust’s example. KHT have re-designated 2 bedroom properties as one bedroom properties and reduced the rent accordingly. Cllr Truswell suggested that box rooms could be re-designated as offices.
Twenty five people met at St Cross Church for Middleton’s second meeting to discuss how to tackle the Bedroom Tax. Some called on the City Council to commit to not evicting any tenants who get into rent arrears as a result of the deduction, but Councillor Truswell said:
“You can’t ask people to go into arrears. It will mean they have a debt for years and the Council will have less money to do repairs.”
Instead he suggested the campaign target the Government who are bringing in these changes. It was suggested writing to the Prime Minister, lobbying local Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs and holding a demonstration in the city centre were more appropriate actions.
John Davies from the Hands Off Our Homes campaign said that people affected by the Bedroom Tax are in an impossible position. They can’t move to a smaller property because there aren’t enough council houses and many people are already choosing between buying food and having the heating on. So where are they going to find the extra money to pay the rent?
Father Andy Myers, Vicar at St Cross said: “It is important that people in Middleton stand together and look after each other. I’ll be there to support anyone getting evicted and I hope others will.”
Councillor Kim Groves urged tenants to get advice about their position and suggested people attend the drop in advice session at Westwood Primary School on Thursday 14th March from 5:30 – 8:30pm.