'Bedroom tax' crisis: More than half of Helena tenants hit by changes are in arrears (From St Helens Star)
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'Bedroom tax' crisis: More than half of Helena tenants hit by changes are in arrears
MORE than half of a housing association’s tenants affected by the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ are now in rent arrears, the Star has learned.
Nearly six months since the start of the controversial policy, which reduces housing benefit for social tenants classed as having spare bedrooms, Helena Partnerships revealed its impact.
More than 1,000 of its tenants hit by the ‘tax’ have run up arrears of more than £100, the town’s largest housing association confirmed.
Helena released figures to show that 57 per cent of tenants who have seen their benefits reduced were behind on rent payments, as the National Housing Federation published a damning report.
Its survey of 51 housing associations revealed one in four households hit by the ‘tax’ has been pushed into rent arrears for the first time.
Helena has been a heavy critic of the Government policy.
A report by academics at Sheffield Hallam University earlier this year placed St Helens 20th on a list of areas that would be worst hit by the reforms.
St Helens Citizens Advice Bureau has warned that the under occupancy measures are among the biggest factors driving families into debt.
The Government wants the policy to address housing shortages, by seeing families with spare rooms moving to smaller properties and, in turn, freeing up space for others who need extra bedrooms.
However, Liz Haworth, executive director business transformation at Helena Partnerships, voiced concerns residents cannot downsize because the stock of smaller homes is not available.
She said: “We are continuing to see the negative impact of the so-called ‘bedroom tax’, which is pushing tenants into spiralling debt and contributing to increased hardship in these already tough economic times.
“There are simply not enough smaller properties available into which under-occupying tenants can downsize.
“This can have a negative impact on the neighbourhoods we have worked so hard to create in partnership with our tenants and other agencies.
“Results from the National Housing Federation’s latest survey confirm that the ‘bedroom tax’ is hurting families and individuals around England, placing them under increased pressure.
“We will continue to ensure that our tenants have the right advice and support to cope with welfare reform.”
Helena stated that no one has been evicted so far as a consequence of rent arrears amassed because of the ‘bedroom tax’.
It is not clear how many of the Helena tenants affected are in arrears for the first time.
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