Applying the bedroom tax to tenants placed in homeless temporary accommodation will have a devastating impact, says Shelter Scotland.
Alongside the Chartered Institute of housing in Scotland (CIH Scotland) and the Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers, the charity has issued a joint letter to Lord Freud, Welfare Reform Minister, urging the Westminster Government to exempt local authority owned temporary accommodation from the under occupation penalties or the so-called ‘bedroom tax’.
Some tenants face losing more than £100 a week if the reforms go ahead as planned in April 2013. The consequences will be disproportionate in Scotland because over 50 per cent of temporary accommodation is council owned, compared to the rest of the UK where most temporary accommodation is leased from the private sector or from housing associations. (Leased property is not affected by the bedroom tax).
According to official statistics from the Scottish Government, over 5,000 households in Scotland are set to be affected.
Graeme Brown, Director of Shelter Scotland, said: “The majority of council-owned temporary accommodation is family-size housing, often with two or three bedrooms. This means the choice for homeless families and individuals to take a smaller property is severely limited.
“Under the proposed reforms, households deemed to have a spare bedroom in council-owned temporary accommodation will lose up to £100 per week in housing benefit, while those who under occupy non-council owned temporary housing will not. We think this is grossly unfair and will have a devastating impact on thousands of homeless households already living on a knife-edge.
“Quite apart from this extreme hardship faced by some of the most vulnerable in our society, the difficulty of collecting charges from households who may have moved on to permanent accommodation is likely to result in Scottish local authorities being forced to meet temporary accommodation bedroom tax deductions from within their own resources. This will be a significant and unanticipated additional cost to local authority budgets, with one Scottish authority estimating an annual cost of £3.5m."
He concluded: “We’re urging the Minister to take immediate action to mitigate this expensive and ill-conceived change. We’re saying to Lord Freud that at the very least this measure should be delayed while more information is gathered on the full cost implications and possible solutions.”