MORE than 2,000 council tenants in South Tyneside are facing a housing timebomb over plans for a ‘bedroom tax’, it emerged today.
Residents claiming housing benefit may be forced to move home or take in lodgers as a consequence of the looming tax on households that are deemed under-occupied.
The change will impact on 2,346 borough council tenants.
If a tenant has one bedroom not occupied, their benefit would be reduced by an average £442 a year.
If a home has two unoccupied bedrooms, tenants will lose out on £785 a year.
The changes, due next year, are part of the Government’s Welfare Reform Act. The impact of the ‘bedroom tax’ means many borough tenants may be forced to find alternative accommodation.
But South Tyneside Council has very few one and two bedroom properties to offer for its tenants to ‘downsize’ into.
Coun Bill Brady, Labour for Whiteleas, compared the legislation to a “horror comic”.
Speaking at a meeting of the council’s overview and scrutiny committee yesterday, he said many tenants were unaware of the major impact the legislation was to have on their lives.
He said: “When I first read the legislation my stomach churned – and it’s the council that will get the blame for this rather than the Government, even though we are just carrying out Government policy the best we can.”
The new tax will be payable by every tenant under the age of 62 who receives housing benefit.
Under the rules one bedroom is allowed for each adult couple, any other person aged 16 or over, two children of the same sex under the age of 16 and two children, regardless of sex, under the age of 10
Anne Connolly, the council’s strategic housing manager, said: “It is clear that those most affected by the bedroom tax are single people and couples, although families will also be affected.
“If these households choose to seek alternative accommodation, the prospect of them being offered suitable council accommodation in the short term is very unlikely.
“A total of 255 one bedroom properties and 255 two bedroom houses became vacant in 2011/12.
“It can be seen that it would not be possible to offer alternative accommodation to all those affected.”