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Claim that bedroom tax will free-up housing market ‘wishful thinking’

Claim that bedroom tax will free-up housing market ‘wishful thinking’

🕔22.Apr 2013

bedroomA claim that most people hit by the bedroom tax will be able to avoid hefty rent rises by moving house has been exposed as little more than wishful thinking in Birmingham.

The city council has just 190 one-bedroom houses and flats available to rent, for almost 15,000 local authority and social landlord tenants who are trying to move out of the two and three-bedroom houses they currently occupy.

Under Government welfare reforms, council and social landlord tenants face paying up to £20 a week more in rent because they are deemed to be occupying houses too large for their needs.

When the measure was first outlined in Parliament, Ministers claimed that the so-called bedroom tax would help solve the housing shortage because homes with un-used bedrooms would be released for rent as tenants moved to downsize.

However, almost all of the 15,000 people facing the under-occupancy charge in Birmingham will either have to remain where they are and pay additional rent or move into often poorer quality rented accommodation in the private sector.

The squeeze on one bedroom properties was inevitable given Birmingham’s history, according to Liberal Democrat group leader Paul Tilsley.

Cllr Tilsley said: “We were not building enough one and two bedroom properties in the 1970s and 1980s with the result that people are now left high and dry in homes with three bedrooms which are too big for them and they are unable to move because we haven’t got enough smaller accommodation.”

Most of the vacant 190 available one bedroom dwellings are believed to be in high rise flats or are difficult to let accommodation in inner city areas.

A cabinet report setting out the impact of welfare reforms disclosed that 2,000 individuals in Birmingham will also be hit by a benefits cap which comes into force later this year.

The cap will see couples and single parents receive no more than £500 a week in benefits. The limit for single people is £350, although there are some exemptions. It’s estimated that families in Birmingham hit by the cap will lose £88 a week on average.

A mapping exercise conducted by the council shows that the impact of welfare reforms will be felt most keenly in inner city wards including Ladywood, Nechells, Washwood Heath, Springfield, Aston and Lozells & East Handsworth. The map also identifies a growing number of food banks where people without the means to buy a meal can pick up free food from charity organisations.

Cllr John Cotton, cabinet member for social cohesion and equality, said: “Welfare reform is an enormous challenge and will have a direct impact on vulnerable people and families across Birmingham.

“The council is working closely with partners from across Birmingham – voluntary organisations, charities, community groups and others at the front line of supporting vulnerable people – to ensure that we have a properly co-ordinated response to these enormous changes.

“Many families and individuals will be hard hit by these changes. We want to make sure they get the help and support they need.”


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