According to Westminster Council figures, the rent arrears of households hit by the bedroom tax have increased by 16% in a month. At the end of March (before the tax was introduced) rent arrears of households hit by the Bedroom Tax were £103,516, but by the end of April rent arrears had increased to £119,692 – an increase of 16%.
Nearly 500 Westminster Council tenants are paying the bedroom tax of £18 a week because of the Council’s failure to offer them a suitable smaller flat, including 79 tenants who are paying £34 bedroom tax because they are living in a flat with two extra bedrooms.
Yet, despite Westminster Conservatives’ support for the bedroom tax as a way of freeing up flats for families in need, so far the Council has moved just 28 tenants into smaller flats, leaving nearly 450 tenants living exactly where they are but with less money than they had before, leading to an increase in rent arrears.
Since the beginning of April, 474 Westminster Council tenants who are under-occupying social housing properties have had a reduction in Housing Benefit. 395 Council tenants have had their housing benefit reduced by 14% of the rent because they have one spare room and 79 tenants are losing 25% of the rent as they have two or more spare rooms.
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Leader of the Labour Group, said;
“The bedroom tax is driving more tenants in to rent arrears and piling on the misery for hundreds of low income residents. The shortage of Council flats means that many tenants with an extra bedroom cannot move even if they want to. Yet they are still penalised financially by an £18 a week cut in their Housing Benefit because of the Council’s failure to offer them somewhere smaller and cheaper. Meanwhile rent arrears mount up putting hard-up tenants closer to the clutches of legal and illegal loan sharks and the additional misery that can create for families on the breadline.”