ALMOST 200 more council tenants in South Tyneside have fallen into rent arrears since the introduction of the so-called ‘bedroom tax’.
Nationally, one-in-three council tenants affected by cuts to housing benefit have fallen behind on rent since the policy took effect in April, according to figures from the Trades Union Congress.
In South Tyneside, since March there has been an £81,000 rise in council rent arrears, with the total amount owed to the local authority now standing at £1.8m.
A council spokesman said: “The under-occupation charge (bedroom tax) is one of a number of reasons why arrears have increased, but tenants are also citing fuel charges and a general increase in the cost of living as other relevant factors.
“Arrears will always fluctuate for a number of reasons, and it is difficult to say at any one time how much of an increase may be attributable to a specific factor.”
He added: “South Tyneside Homes’ income team and welfare reform team are working closely with all tenants who are affected by the bedroom tax, offering budgeting advice specific to their requirements, and working in partnership with a number of bodies.”
In South Tyneside the number of residents on housing benefit and who have been affected is 2,770.
Since its introduction, an additional 192 tenants have fallen into rent arrears
The latest statistics come as no surprise to Tracy and Walter Little, who live in a three-bedroom property in Hautmont Road, Hebburn. They have no arrears but have lost more than £40 a month in benefit, because they have three bedrooms.
Although they describe their smallest bedroom as “a tiny box room,” the couple still saw their social housing benefit cut.
Mrs Little, 48, said: “This ‘bedroom tax’ is having an impact on so many people.
“I had a feeling rent arrears would increase as a result, so I can’t say I’m surprised. We are doing OK at the moment, but so many people are struggling.”