BEDROOM TAX -SAVING OR JUST ANOTHER GOVERNMENT SHORT CUT INSTEAD OF BUILDING NEW HOUSING
09/06/2013

The government's clampdown on benefits is forcing up, rather than cutting, the cost of housing low-income families in wealthy areas, as people are shifted into hotels and bed and breakfasts, according to new figures obtained for the Observer.

Charities are also reporting a chain of misery and chaos as children are forced to move schools, and parents have to spend much of their time ferrying them large distances to classes .

Data obtained through freedom of information requests shows that at Westminster council – one of the wealthiest areas in the country – the bill for homelessness has shot up by 63.5% since last year as new temporary accommodation has had to be found for those hit by cuts. The figures show that it has cost Westminster more to place thousands of people in temporary accommodation, including hotels, than the council has saved through the government's welfare clampdown.


BROKEN BRITISH POLITICS                                                                                                                  A mechanism to recover rent arrears is to be incorporated into the new Universal Credit system, by docking the benefit. Landlords who are owed rent by tenants receiving benefit will be able to request direct payment once a certain level of rent arrears – as yet undecided – is reached.

 

When the Department of Work and Pensions receives such a request, it will automatically initiate a process whereby Universal Credit payments are docked, so that arrears can be recovered.The deductions currently permitted by law are 5%, but the Government says it is considering whether the proportion should be increased. Universal Credit, which is being launched this autumn, will pay all benefits as a single monthly amount direct to claimants, including housing benefit.

The system will be similar to the current Local Housing Allowance in that it will be the tenant, not the private landlord, who receives the rentHowever, for the first time, social landlords will not be receiving the rent themselves – instead, it will go to their tenants, to be passed on.

 

Housing associations taking part in pilots of the Universal Credit system have already warned that they are seeing increased rent arrears.

The Government has recently announced that the trials, originally due to last a year, will continue for 18 months. The outcome of the trials will help decide at what stage arrears should mean that the housing benefit element of Universal Credit is paid direct to landlords, both private and social.

Currently, in the Local Housing Allowance system and also a pathfinder trial in Manchester, the trigger is two months of arrears.



Bedroom tax campaigners are currently protesting outside Manchester's Civil Justice Centre on behalf of a single parent who is facing eviction by her housing association.

Southway Housing Trust is seeking possession of Ella Lorelle's home in Withington over rent arrears of £500 - arrears the tenant claims were created by the bedroom tax
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Organisations representing lenders and housing associations in Wales are opposing government proposals to abolish a mandatory eviction power.

The Renting homes white paper, published on 20 May, proposed abolishing ground 8 in Wales, a power which is rarely used in the country but enables landlords to evict tenants who have at least eight weeks of arrears without having to prove the possession is reasonable.

But the Council of Mortgage Lenders and housing association body Community Housing Cymru this week called for ground 8 to be retained to tackle the threat of rising arrears as a result of welfare reform.

25.07.13

1. Tory Minister for Communities, Baroness Hanham, will have upset Tory HQ by letting slip the fact that the #BedroomTax is indeed a Bedroom Tax (see here). The Baroness used the phrase in a debate in the House of Lords today. Until now, Tory politicians were banned from using those words and had persisted with calling the officially titled under-occupancy charge a "Spare Room Subsidy".

2. Leigh Day Law are the law firm challenging the legality of the #BedroomTax in a court of law. 2 months ago they represented disabled Bedroom Tax victims against Iain Duncan Smith in an attempt to persuade the judge that the Bedroom Tax legislation does nothing to take account of the special requirements and rights of disabled tenants. The latest development today is that we now know the judge will hand down his verdict on 30 July 2013 (see here for more). For many teetering on the brink of eviction this news cannot come quick enough.

3. The last piece of news today on the BedroomTax illustrates the very point made in the paragraph above. News emerged today that a male BedroomTax victim stabbed himself in the throat at a DWP Benefit Office in Runcorn. He posed no danger to staff and has since received medical treatment but the very fact that he feel pushed to take this course of action brings into stark focus just how serious an impact the #BedroomTax is having on ordinary people's lives (see here for more).