APPLYING the ‘Bedroom Tax’ to tenants placed in homeless temporary accommodation will have a devastating impact, according to a group of Scottish housing bodies.
In a joint letter to Lord Freud, Welfare Reform Minister (1), Shelter Scotland, CIH Scotland and the Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers have urged the Westminster Government to exempt local authority owned temporary accommodation from the under occupation penalties or the so-called ‘Bedroom Tax’.
The three bodies say that some tenants face losing more than £100 a week if the reforms go ahead as planned in April 2013. The letter says that the consequences will be disproportionate in Scotland because over 50 per cent of temporary accommodation is council owned, compared to the rest of the UK where most temporary accommodation is leased from the private sector or from housing associations (leased property is not affected by the Bedroom Tax).
According to official statistics from the Scottish Government, over 5,000 households in Scotland are set to be affected.
On behalf of the three organisations, Graeme Brown, Director of Shelter Scotland, said:
“The majority of council-owned temporary accommodation is family-size housing, often with two or three bedrooms. This means the choice for homeless families and individuals to take a smaller property is severely limited.
“Under the proposed reforms households deemed to have a spare bedroom in council-owned temporary accommodation will lose up to £100 per week in housing benefit, while those who under occupy non council-owned temporary housing will not. We think this is grossly unfair and will have a devastating impact on thousands of homeless households already living on a knife-edge.
“Quite apart from this extreme hardship faced by some of the most vulnerable in our society, the difficulty of collecting charges from households who may have moved on to permanent accommodation is likely to result in Scottish local authorities being forced to meet temporary accommodation Bedroom Tax deductions from within their own resources. This will be a significant and unanticipated additional cost to local authority budgets, with one Scottish authority estimating an annual cost of £3.5m.
“We’re urging the Minister to take immediate action to mitigate this expensive and ill-conceived change. We’re saying to Lord Freud that at the very least this measure should be delayed while more information is gathered on the full cost implications and possible solutions.”
Notes to Editors:
1. The letter in full to Lord Freud can be found here.
2. Shelter Scotland provides expert support services, online advice and a free national helpline for everyone facing housing and homelessness difficulties. For advice and support visit www.shelterscotland.org or call 0808 800 4444.
3. The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards. Our goal is simple – to provide housing professionals with the advice, support and knowledge they need to be brilliant. CIH is a registered charity and not-for-profit organisation. This means that the money we make is put back into the organisation and funds the activities we carry out to support the housing industry. We have a diverse and growing membership of more than 22,000 people who work in both the public and private sectors, in 20 countries on five continents across the world. Further information is available at: www.cih.org For media enquiries call 024 7685 1788. Follow us on Twitter @CIHhousing
4. The Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers promotes the interests of Scottish local housing authorities as well as the sharing of information and good practice within Scottish local housing authorities and other agencies. Further information is available at: http://alacho.org/
5. Spokespeople are available for interview – call the media office on 0844 515 2442. An ISDN line is available for broadcast interviews.
Shelter Scotland believes everyone should have a home. We help people find and keep a home. We campaign for decent housing for all.
Contact: Shelter Scotland