Bedroom tax causes mayhem for council

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WIGAN council houses that have become difficult to rent out because of the controversial “bedroom tax” may be demolished, it was revealed today.

The drastic measure was ventured by bosses of Wigan and Leigh Housing amid claims they are finding it increasingly hard to find occupants for larger homes on account of the Government’s Under-Occupation penalty which slashes housing benefit for tenants with spare bedrooms.

The organisation, which manages Wigan Council’s housing stock, now has 17 vacancies in blocks of flats because it is struggling to let the two bedroomed apartments because new tenants are wary of being penalised by the tax.

However, there is unlikely to be any instruction to send in the bulldozers for at least 12 months.

Chief executive of Wigan and Leigh Housing, Ashley Crumbley, today confirmed it was considering a range of possibilities for housing stock which, because of the Government changes, there was now low demand.

The trend had now been officially highlighted by continued “close monitoring and asset management” of its 22,576 properties.

He said: “Demolition of any properties in the council stock is a last resort for low demand properties or those requiring very costly repairs when a full appraisal of options has been considered.

“The only properties in the council’s demolition

programme are a limited number of lesser-demand flats such as Limefield in Scholes. There are no plans to demolish three bedroom homes.

“What is being flagged as part of our risk management strategy is a potential longer term risk over a number of years to the demand for limited groups of larger properties arising from a variety of factors including the impact of the under-occupancy charge.

“If this should arise in the future then all avenues will be explored to attract demand and demolition would be a very last resort.

“There is also an active council new-build programme that in the future will particularly address the needs of smaller households and older people.”

To date more than 115 homes have been built since the moratorium on new council house-building was lifted.

Proposals being studied include carrying out structural work to change the number of bedrooms in a home, redecorating to make it more attractive to lease or, in some cases, demolition altogether and replacing them with a different bedroom capacity style of housing.

Mr Crumbley said that demolition can only be justified if a trend of increasing difficulty in leasing such properties has now been established which Wigan and Leigh Housing would be unable to mitigate by any other means.

And that knocking down structurally sound but difficult to let properties would only be finally sanctioned where there was now a confirmed over-supply of larger properties on the market.