The controversial measure, introduced in April, sees council house tenants judged to have too many rooms in their homes subjected to cuts in their housing benefit – 14 per cent for a single excess room or a hefty 25 per cent for two or more ‘spare’ rooms.
Affected families include the disabled, who may have had extra rooms for use by their carers or to store living equipment such as wheelchairs; as well as foster carers looking after more than one child.
Campaign group False Economy gathered figures from 114 local authorities around the country, using Freedom of Information requests. According to the data, around 50,000 of their tenants have slid into rent arrears since the subsidy came into force –31per cent of all tenants who have been subjected to the cuts.
In some areas the proportion is higher – as many as 76 per cent have fallen into arrears in Barrow in Furness, Cumbria.
Clackmannanshire, Tamworth and South Kesteven are the second, third and fourth most affected local authorities, with more than half effected tenants now in arrears.
Clifford Singer is Campaign Manager for False Economy. He said: “These figures show once again the predictable chaos that has resulted from the hated bedroom tax. Together with the raft of other benefits cuts the government has forced through both this year and previously, the bedroom tax is driving tenants and families who were just making ends meet into arrears, and pushing those who were already struggling with the cost of living into a full-blown crisis.”
“At a time when the government is actively trying to stoke a new housing bubble for purely political ends, we have people being punished for the lack of affordable housing and the decades-long failure to invest in social and council housing. The worst part is that these figures have been collated while councils’ emergency Discretionary Housing Payments are still available; they are being used up at record speed and when they run out, these figures will only get worse.”
Only one in ten local councils who responded to the research said they had a policy of not evicting tenants in financial difficulty.