Thousands of tenants across Gloucestershire braced for 'bedroom tax' hit
THOUSANDS of low-income families and disabled people across Gloucestershire are about to face a stark choice – pay up to £1,000 more rent, or move house.
The 'bedroom tax' is due to come into force for housing association and council home tenants on April 1, and more than 3,000 families in the county will be affected.
They face paying £584 a year more rent if they have one 'spare' bedroom or £1,043 a year if they have two.
The change applies to all tenants of working age, including separated parents who share the care of their children, and disabled people who have their home specially adapted for their needs.
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Gloucester City Homes, which manages 5,000 properties, said that 500 of its tenants will be affected.
"We are going to visit each one to personally explain the changes and try to help them, perhaps with a possible move to smaller home, if those properties are available," said chief executive Ashley Green.
Tenants will face tough choices and availability of homes will be a key issue.
Gloucester City Homes has a waiting list of 5,000. Tenants face a 14 per cent cut in their housing benefit if they are found to have one spare bedroom, or around £50 a month. The cut will be 25 per cent if they have two spare bedrooms.
"There's already a shortage of homes. It's not as easy as simply 'down-sizing'," said Mr Green. "There will be some who simply don't have that choice and will have to pay the extra rent or move into private rented accommodation."
Tenants facing extreme circumstances, including disabled people living in adapted homes can apply to their local council for Discretionary Housing Payments to make up some of the shortfall.
The National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations said 3,300 tenants in Gloucestershire will be affected, including 2,000 disabled people. The federation is calling on the Government for a rethink.
Catherine Brabner, of the National Housing Federation in the South West said: "The 'one-size-fits-all' approach takes no account of disabled people's adapted homes, or of parents sharing custody who will lose the room for their child at weekends.
"In most areas, there just aren't enough smaller affordable homes for these families to move into to avoid the tax. Many people will find themselves having to move into more expensive privately rented properties – adding to the overall housing benefit bill. The high housing benefit bill is because there are not enough affordable homes, so the best way to cut the bill is to build more."