With bedroom tax rent arrears forecast to hit £1m in Wythenshawe, campaigners call for fight against evictions

Rent arrears in Wythenshawe will soar to £1 million because of the bedroom tax, say housing bosses.

 And Wythenshawe MP, Paul Goggins has called on the government to take action to  stop tenants getting into debt and ensure landlords get their rents.
Mr Goggins said in Parliament: “Do Ministers share my concern about the impact of welfare changes on housing associations? The Wythenshawe Community Housing Group in my constituency estimates that rent arrears will go up by about £1 million this year following the introduction of the bedroom tax. 
“Do Ministers agree that when universal credit comes in, any claimant already in rent arrears should have their housing costs paid directly and immediately to their landlord?”
The “spare room subsidy” – dubbed a bedroom tax, amounts to a cut in housing benefit of up to 25 per cent for anyone in social housing with unoccupied rooms in their home. Housing bosses fear there will be a flood of evictions as hard-up tenants face huge rent arrears.
Wythenshawe’s Labour MP has previously warned the bedroom tax would have a serious impact on more than 3,500 families in the town. He said around 500 families in social housing in the area would like to move to a smaller home but can’t because of shortage or properties.
And housing bosses across Greater Manchester say many tenants who had their housing payments cut on April 1 are already in arrears.
Town hall bosses in Brighton, have promised not to evict their tenants and Leeds City Council has reclassified some rooms as studies to get round the tax.
And some district judges have indicated they would refuse to grant possession orders in cases involving the bedroom tax, citing the Human Rights Act.

Manchester City Council hosted a summit on Friday of authorities opposed to the bedroom tax to discuss options to help support residents affected by housing benefit reforms.

Cllr Jim Battle, Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council, said: “We urge any tenant who is struggling to pay their rent to contact their landlord or housing association and find out what support they can get with housing advice, managing finances and assistance with a move – even tenants looking to find work.  Talk to your landlord.  We will also act to amend rehousing policies to ensure Manchester people are able, where possible, to be fairly considered if they need to downsize.

 “Social landlords are there to help and advise tenants.  There will be circumstances when social landlords will take repossession action – but social housing tenants are legally protected and all repossession cases will need to be heard by a county court judge before any eviction process can take place.

“The city council will continue to oppose the government’s housing benefit reforms and will support the case to remove and protest against this very real and unfair tax.

“As such, the city council has changed its rehousing policy to make sure that tenants suffering the blows of the bedroom tax and those people in the greatest housing need will not challenge each other for properties by having two allocation streams – one for tenants looking to downsize and one for tenants who have priority rehousing needs.

“Manchester City Council will also be hosting a meeting with representatives of local government authorities across the country to discuss the impact of the bedroom tax and speak collectively about any future action to oppose it.”

 But anti-bedroom tax campaigners says landlords and politicians should stand shoulder-to-shoulder with worried tenants  and back tenants who are faced with eviction. The campaigners have pledged to take direct action to stop evictions and are planning to lobby social landlords from across the country who are meeting in Manchester on June 25 for the Chartered Institute of Housing Conference.

 The Greater Manchester No Bedroom Tax campaign said: “The bedroom tax is destroying peoples lives. Housing bosses should be discussing how to stop a bedroom tax that has been designed to both hit the poorest tenants the hardest -and to undermine and weaken the entire social housing sector. To pay up would mean living below the poverty line.
“Their conference agenda points to how they are to collect the bedroom tax from the poorest. Tenants who are already just about surviving on means tested benefits are being expected to pay extra rent to their social landlord.”
The Department for Work and Pensions has argued that the housing benefit cut – which it calls the ‘spare room subsidy’ – is a fair deduction and will persuade families who are ‘over-occupying’ to free up space for those on the housing waiting list.

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