Bedroom tax causing misery for over 40 families says housing chief

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FRESH concerns have been voiced over the controversial ‘bedroom tax’, with a Kirkintilloch housing association revealing that more than 40 families are being hit.

Antonine Housing Association has written to MP Jo Swinson expressing concerns over a new penalty which targets people deemed to have too many bedrooms.

The so-called ‘bedroom tax’ was introduced on April 1 – meaning tenants of working age with one extra bedroom face a housing benefit cut of 14 per cent cut.

Those with two or more extra bedrooms face a 25 per cent reduction.

Antonine HA reports that some 15 per cent of its 293 tenants in East Dunbartonshire will be affected by the ‘bedroom tax’ – 41 families.

Director Michael Devlin told the Herald: “We advised Ms Swinson of certain tenants within our area who, for different reasons, are unable to maintain employment, but will be affected by the bedroom tax as they are considered now to have a spare bedroom, despite having lived alone in their homes for some years.

“In their present homes they receive support, not just from statutory agencies, but also the network of friends and neighbours around them.

“This support enables them to maintain their independence within the community. These tenants will be subject to the bedroom tax, yet there are no properties nearby that are of a suitable size which they could move to.

“We asked Ms Swinson what people in such circumstances are supposed to do.”

Antonine has also expressed concern over a statement from the MP that tenants affected could apply for a discretionary housing payment.

However, it stresses that such payments are short term and applicants will have to continually re-apply.

Ms Swinson previously told the Herald: “There are thousands of people on the waiting list for social housing in East Dunbartonshire, yet there are 600 empty bedrooms.

“When everyone is feeling the squeeze it doesn’t make sense to spend taxpayers’ money on under-occupation of scarce housing supply.

“The amount of housing benefit people receive in social housing will be based on the number of bedrooms they need, just as it is if they are renting privately.

“We know there will be difficult cases and that’s why safeguards have been put in place for the most vulnerable, including the disabled and foster carers.

“We’ve increased the amount of discretionary housing payment given to councils to help people deal with the changes to housing benefit rules.

“In East Dunbartonshire the council will receive £102,051 this year, up from £42,723 last year, to help local people in difficulty.”

Ms Swinson said this week: “I will respond shortly to each of the concerns raised in the letter from Antonine Housing Association.”

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