Friday, 26 February 2016

Is this the end for the bedroom tax?

This week could well signal the end of the so-called bedroom tax.

A group of five families are going to The Supreme Court in a bid to prove the bedroom tax discriminates against disabled adults - a case that could have major ramifications for the entire system.

The introduction of the bedroom tax in 2013 was always controversial and like all housing associations, it has affected residents of Durham Aged Mineworkers’ Homes Association.

The Government argued that it would encourage people to move to smaller properties, potentially saving around £480 million a year from the housing benefit bill. That is all well and good, and in many respects a good thing as far as the economy is concerned, but I have always maintained that the Government failed to see the bigger picture.

The bigger picture being that it’s fine to say in principle that people should move to smaller properties, but in reality there are not enough homes to meet this need. That is not just down to the current Government, but also a number of previous Governments who have simply not done enough to build more new homes.

In 1970 378,000 new homes were completed and by 2014 that figure had fallen to 141,000. Given people are now living much longer than before, that for me, pretty much sums it up.

In our part of the world, high quality two-bedroom homes are in big demand and whilst ourselves, and others, are doing what we can, it is almost impossible to meet this need.

So, if an elderly couple, for example, are living in a three or four-bedroom family home, they may want to move to a smaller property (and not just because of the bedroom tax), but if there is nothing suitable to move in to, why should they be penalised financially for this?

We will obviously have to wait and see what happens with the legal process, but in the meantime I would urge the Government to do more to help social housing providers like ours to build more new homes – as much as we would like to, we can’t do it on our own!

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