Rural communities face being broken up by the ‘bedroom tax.’ That’s the warning from Acre with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) and Community Housing Cymru (CHC) on the likely impact on the Government’s under-occupation charge for social housing tenants. They both fear that people will be forced to leave the villages where they grew up.
According to CHC, rural homelessness is increasing and in Ceredigion it doubled between 2009 and 2012. It is concerned that by cutting housing benefit for tenants with spare bedrooms there will be additional pressure on already hard pressed households in rural areas where options to move to smaller properties is more limited. Some of the people who are faced with losing between £12 and £24 a week and who are classified as under-occupying are disabled people who have had their homes adapted to suit their needs.
A survey by ACRE, the umbrella body for England’s 38 rural community councils, found that the average cut in housing benefit is £14 a week. The organisation believe the government has failed to follow its own ‘rural proofing’ guidelines. These were issued on 16 July with the stated aim of ‘ensuring minister and civil servants take into account the impact of their policies on rural areas.’
ACRE Chief Executive Janice Banks said: “The DWP forecast the policy could have a greater impact on rural communities…….yet it went ahead with a blanket approach which will inevitably force rural tenants out of the villages where they have lived all their lives.” ACRE has backed the call by the Commons Committee for Rural Affairs to exclude settlements of fewer than 3,000 people from the charge.