‘Bedroom tax’ set to impact on hundreds in Boston

News from the Boston Standard, Lincolnshire: bostonstandard.co.uk, on Twitter @standardboston
News from the Boston Standard, Lincolnshire: bostonstandard.co.uk, on Twitter @standardboston

More than 650 people living in social housing in Boston are set to lose out on hundreds of pounds next month when the ‘bedroom tax’ is introduced next month.

Figures from The National Housing Federation show 657 people in Boston – including 414 who are disabled – will be forced to pay hundreds of pounds more in rent or move to smaller homes if they are deemed to have ‘spare’ bedrooms in their homes.

Boston Mayflower Housing Association has raised concerns over the plans and fears it will have a big impact.

John Smith, head of housing, said work had been underway for some time to help the 400 working-age tenants who would be affected.

He added: “We are well aware that many of these tenants will struggle to make up the shortfall, particularly those who are vulnerable or have a family member with a disability, and we simply don’t have enough smaller properties if everyone affected decided they needed to downsize.”

The change will see people with one ‘extra’ room lose £519 a year housing benefit. People living with two or more spare rooms face a £926 cut.

Boston Labour councillor Paul Gleeson told The Standard: “I think it’s unnecessary. You’ve got a load of people sitting in social housing which is too big for them, but there aren’t the smaller houses for them to move into. It would be more viable if there were 400 two-bed houses sitting around going begging, but there aren’t. Many households have only just got enough to make ends meet. It really is vicious.”

MP Mark Simmonds vowed to take up the case of anyone who thinks they have been treated unfairly but is certain the policy is the ‘right way forward’.

Mr Simmonds said: “I am keen to ensure that these changes are implemented as fairly as possible.

“To this end, I am pleased that the Government has chosen to exempt pensioners, and will give special consideration to families who require overnight carers.

“There is also £30 million available for Discretionary Housing Payments which is aimed at ensuring that vulnerable families are not negatively impacted.

He backed the policy as a way to free up bigger homes for those who need them.

He said: “Whilst I am keen to ensure the impact of these changes is mitigated, I am also certain that they are the right way forward.

“There are currently 250,000 social housing tenants living in overcrowded accommodation and over five million people on waiting lists.

“The Government cannot continue to subsidise houses that are too big for a family’s needs.”

But Mr Smith warned that forcing people to move will cause them ‘upheaval and stress’.

He said: “The cost to tenants is more than financial, parents with shared child caring arrangements, families with disabled children, and those who need space for medical equipment or who cannot share a room for some reason will all have to find ways to cope, and some people who are happy and settled in their home will have to move, with all the upheaval and stress that comes with it.”