COUNCIL chiefs are taking action to protect a huge investment in specially adapted homes in the borough.
South Tyneside Council spends £1m a year fitting equipment such as stairlifts and walk-in showers in council homes.
That investment is now under threat from Government welfare reforms.
As a result of the ‘bedroom tax’, tenants are facing cuts in housing benefit and people living in specially-adapted three-bedroom properties are having to downsize – leaving those homes difficult to re-let.
At a meeting of the council’s Housing Performance Panel, Brian Scott, director of housing, finance and business support for South Tyneside Homes, said people in adapted properties may need more support from the council’s discretionary housing grant.
Mr Scott cited the case of one five-bedroom adapted home which is empty.
He added: “We can make both a business and a human case for keeping people in their homes.
“It costs £50,000 to £60,000 for a stairlift. It does not make economic sense for that person to move.”
Committee chairman Coun Eddie McAtominey said he had written an open letter to communities secretary Eric Pickles and Ian Duncan Smith, Tory minister behind the welfare reforms, expressing his concerns over the issue.
He raised the case of a 54-year-old tenant living in a two-bedroom adapted home in his Hebburn South ward who is £44 a week worse off under the bedroom tax after her daughter left home.
“This is bad legislation,” Coun McAtominey said.