The Government’s controversial ‘bedroom tax’ policy is failing in its aim of freeing up larger homes, new research published today reveals.
Research by a group of London’s largest housing providers, found the proportion of housing benefit claimants affected by ‘bedroom tax’ who had the correct number of rooms actually fell from 59% in 2013 to 52% in 2015.
The Government’s Social Rented Sector Size Criteria (SRSSC), more commonly known as ‘bedroom tax’, was introduced in 2013 with the aim of encouraging tenants with ‘spare bedrooms’ to downsize to a smaller property. Households affected by the policy are required to contribute toward their rent through a reduction in housing benefit entitlement.
Around a quarter of social housing residents were affected by bedroom tax consistently between 2013 and 2015. However, three-quarters of those affected in 2013 remained in the same situation over the course of the study. Of the remaining one-quarter, about half stopped receiving housing benefit, and the other half no longer had extra bedrooms due to changes in family circumstances.
Since 2013, only a small number of households have moved as a direct result of the policy. The study says this “raises questions about the policy’s success in encouraging residents to move to appropriately-sized homes”, whilst highlighting the need for more affordable homes in London.
Other findings include:
- Family dynamics and changes in employment circumstances mean that families are likely to drop into and out of being subject to the ‘bedroom tax’ without necessarily moving. Experiencing this restriction in eligibility may therefore become commonplace for many low-income households.
- Residents who had suffered a reduction in housing benefit as a consequence of the ‘bedroom tax’ commonly found paying bills a constant struggle or had fallen behind, and some were in arrears with many of their bills. Other households said the reduction in benefit has led them to cut back on food and heating.
- Overall a third of all the residents surveyed said they were in continual financial difficulties as they struggled to keep on top of their bills. Half predicted that they would become worse off over the next 12 months, at a time when the on-going impact of existing welfare reforms are due to be supplemented by additional measures.
David Montague, Chief Executive for L&Q and Chair of the g15 said: “Our three year study suggests that there is little evidence under-occupied families were motivated to move into smaller homes as a result of the policy.
“Given the shortage of affordable housing in London, it is questionable whether residents would have been able to downsize, even if they wanted to.
“As a sector, we are keen to work with the new Government to examine how we can address the lack of affordable homes, which is the underlying issue. The g15 aims to create 180,000 new homes for London over the next decade in an investment worth around £50 billion, but we will not be able to do this without support from our partners.”
The three-year study by g15’s Real London Lives project examined the lives of London’s social housing tenants through qualitative and quantitative research. Its final report will be published in the Autumn.