Bracknell Forest Council 'doing all it can to help over bedroom tax'
Published: 1 May 2013 17:305 comments
Councillor Dale Birch, executive member for adult services, health and housing, was responding to a question about the borough's residents who are likely to be affected by the changes to the housing benefit system, introduced on April 1.
Social housing tenants who have one unoccupied or 'underoccupied' bedroom will lose 14% of their housing benefit, whereas those with two extra bedrooms lose 25% of the benefit.
Cllr Mary Temperton, Labour ward member for Great Hollands North, asked the question at the authority's full council meeting last Thursday.
She said: "One of my residents has been told there will be a minimum one-year wait for a two-bedroom property. The longer this process takes, the greater the risk of rent arrears being accrued. Can you give an indication of how long it will take to match these families to enable their move to a suitable property and whether the council will be lenient in regard to this housing related debt when nominating to housing associations?"
Cllr Birch said: "It's an issue that this administration is handling with due diligence and sensitivity. There are 587 households with a reduction in housing benefits - 482 will see a 14% reduction and 105 a 25% reduction.
"We will always help households to make informed decisions. We have supported 34 transfers from larger to smaller properties last year, up from 24 the previous year and 11 of which were in the last quarter; most likely from people trying to get ahead of these changes.
"We will continue to support people as much as we can. There are occasions when people will be evicted and they will fall on the homelessness system."
Cllr Birch advised residents affected to change spending habits to make up the shortfall in funding; move to a 'more appropriate-sized' property; or take in a lodger.
Under the changes, children under 10 are expected to share a room,
as are youngsters aged 10-16 of the same gender.
The 'bedroom tax' does not affect benefit claimants in privately rented accommodation.
Pensioners are exempt from the changes, as are people who live in specially adapted homes and families of those in the Armed Forces.