Housing crisis warning over bedroom tax

A table explaining the bedroom tax

A table explaining the bedroom tax

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THE massive scale of Wigan’s massive Bedroom Tax blight has been revealed in Parliament.

Makerfield’s MP told the Commons that last year there were more than twice as many eligible tenants chasing one and two-bedroomed council homes as were available across the borough.

And that was even before the strictures of the Government’s new Under-Occupation policy became law earlier this month.

Yvonne Fovargue waved an article from the Wigan Evening Post under MPs’ noses which described how the non-political chief executive of Wigan and Leigh Housing condemned the legislation. Ashley Crumbley described the law as “wicked” and said it would not save any money on the Housing Benefit bill while bringing misery and hardship, forcing thousands of people in Wigan to pay up from an already stretched income or move to a smaller properties already in short supply locally.

Ms Fovargue said Wigan has a 12,266 stock of one and two-bedroomed homes of which 1,496 became vacant last year - while 3,177 tenants had applied for them with the bedroom tax has started to bite. There are 10,110 three-bedroomed properties of which 553 became vacant but there were only 353 applications for these vacancies.

She told the Commons: “Wigan has worked hard over the years to build stability and community spirit. Forcing people out of their homes or move away from networks of support, from friends, from family, from jobs - for don’t forget the majority are working for a low wage - from schools, from the area they grew up in may cases is heartless. There are not families in Wigan tightly packed into overcrowded dwellings waiting for these selfish people with acres of vacant space to move and release a home. In fact, contrary to government rhetoric the reverse is true.

The MP said that she had recently tabled a parliamentary question regarding the numbers of people under-occupying and claiming Local Housing Allowance (LHA) but was told that it was based on the characteristics of the household and not affected by the number of bedrooms in the property occupied.

She said: “On government figures there could be a saving of £2.9m annually in Wigan if either nobody moved or everyone downsized within the social rented sector. However the harsh reality of the housing market in Wigan is that the shortfall of one and two-bed properties in the social rented sector is causing people to shift to the private sector and this could result in an additional cost to the Housing Benefit bill of £229,000 in 2014-15.”

As of April 15, 38 of the 4,200 households affected have now terminated their tenancies to move into private sector rented homes. Each household that moves to the private rented sector sees an increase on the Housing Benefit bill nationally from £700 to £1,200 per year

And this move from one sector to another, she said, is likely to “only go one way” as, of the 1,100 people on the waiting list from the private rented sector, 80 per cent require one and two bedrooms which are already oversubscribed and in short supply.