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Devizes tenants face bedroom tax
9:00pm Wednesday 24th October 2012 in News
Some 316 Devizes households will find themselves £20 or more a week worse off when new government welfare rules come into effect next year.
Residents who attended a Devizes Area Board briefing on local housing last week, heard that under-occupation rules – dubbed the ‘bedroom tax’ – will see social housing tenants losing £20 a week from their housing benefit for any unoccupied bedroom in their home.
Although this does not apply to pensioners, it will mean that 316 people in the Devizes area will have to find the shortfall in some other way, possibly by taking in a lodger. This income, though, will also affect their housing benefit.
Angie Rawlins from Wiltshire Council’s housing department told the meeting: “We are doing everything we can to help people downsize but our big problem is that we are desperately short of one-bedroom properties.
“The new rules only affect people of working age but it will affect one-parent families who look after their children at weekends.”
Julian Paine from Aster Housing, which incorporates the former Sarsen Housing Association, said other welfare benefit changes could affect its operation.
The government is to make housing benefit payments direct to the tenant, rather than to the housing association as it is at the moment.
He said: “This is a significant risk for some of our customers who struggle with budgeting. The nightmare scenario is if the tenant spends their rent money and faces eviction.”
Mr Paine said that Aster is looking at adopting the new fixed-term tenancies by which tenants might have to be found a new home at the end of the term if their circumstances have changed. There are 17,088 people on the housing register in Wiltshire, 1,659 of them in the Devizes area. Some 745 of them are in the lowest priority bronze band, with 502 silver, 359 gold, 37 gold plus and 16 platinum. To be in the gold band you need to have serious medical or social needs.
Mr Paine said: “We need to build 250 low-cost homes a year but the government funding for new homes has dried up. We are having to find more innovative ways of funding affordable housing.”