Housing benefit changes forcing many into rent arrears “for the first time ever”

Two significant pieces of research produced during the party conference season have concluded that a high percentage of people are being pushed into debt by recent changes to the way housing benefit is calculated.

Widely dubbed the “bedroom tax”, the policy was introduced on 1 April this year. It was designed to reduce the cost of housing benefit payments and persuade people to move out of homes where they had a spare room into smaller accommodation, thus freeing up larger homes for families.

The National Housing Federation’s survey of housing associations found that a quarter of households affected by the cut in housing benefit had fallen into rent arrears for the first time ever.

The second piece of research, commissioned by the TUC, was based on a freedom of information request to local authorities. Data revealed 50,000 households – one in three council tenants affected by the housing benefit change – were in rent arrears.

The change removed what the Government described as a "spare room subsidy".  However some tenants found that even if they were prepared to move to smaller accommodation, none was available to rent, while others who needed a spare room for circumstances such as temporary accommodation for a carer felt they were being unfairly penalised.

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