Social tenants face under-occupancy penalty
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by Gill Montia
Social housing tenants on Local Housing Allowance could be facing cuts in benefit if they have a spare bedroom.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s “You and Yours” programme yesterday, Welfare Reform Minister, Lord Freud, revealed that measures before parliament could result in benefit-claiming tenants with an extra bedroom losing £11 a week.
The new measures, contained in the Welfare Reform Bill, are aimed at addressing the chronic shortage of social housing by matching families to accommodation.
However, the National Housing Federation (NHF), which represents housing association in England, argues that those who do look to downsize may not be able to find a smaller social home.
According to the NHF, around 180,000 social tenants in England are under-occupying two-bedroom homes, but only 68,000 one-bedroom social homes became available for letting in 2009/10.
The Federation also calculates that the average social housing household in receipt of Housing Benefit has an annual income of just £8,320 a year.
The proposed under-occupation penalty would therefore leave some families with a shortfall of £676, and the NHF warns that many would be at risk of falling into debt because they simply would not have the money to pay all their bills.
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