The bedroom tax comes into effect next month and affects thousands of people across the West Midlands. Political Editor Daniel Wainwright explains:
What is the bedroom tax?
It’s not actually a tax at all. It’s a cut in housing benefit for people with spare bedrooms in council or social rented housing.
David Cameron yesterday called it the removal of a “spare room subsidy”.
People who currently get housing benefit to pay their rent face losing 14 per cent of it if they have one spare room or 25 per cent if they have two spare rooms.
Who is affected?
The bedroom tax only applies to people in council or social rented housing. It does not affect those who rent from private landlords.
It also only applies to people of working age. Pensioners will not see any change.
How many people are affected and how much will they lose?
In our part of the region the national Housing Federation estimates that 20,725 people will lose out.
On average it could be anything from about £45 a month to £88 a month but it depends on how much housing benefit you are receiving.
More than half of those people are expected to be disabled.
If you live in council or social rented housing and have one ‘spare bedroom’, your housing benefit will drop by 14 per cent.
So if your rent is £100 per week, only £86 will count when your housing benefit is assessed. You will have to pay at least £14 to your landlord yourself.
If you have two or more ‘spare bedrooms’, you will lose 25 per cent. So if your rent is £100 per week, only £75 will count when your housing benefit is assessed and you will have to pay at least £25 to your landlord yourself.
How many bedrooms are people allowed?
If you’re in council or social rented housing, you can have housing benefit for a house or flat with one bedroom per adult or couple living there.
Children under 16 are expected to share if they are the same gender.
Under 10s are expected to share regardless of gender.
If there are any unused bedrooms, then the bedroom tax applies.
And you can’t claim an unused bedroom is something else, like a study or living room because the housing benefit is worked out based on the landlord’s tenancy agreement.
Are there any exceptions?
Disabled people are allowed to have a bedroom for a full-time carer.
Students who go away to university are also still classed as living at home as long as they are there for at least two weeks a year. However this is changing from October with the introduction of Universal Credit and they will have to be there for at least six months a year to avoid cuts in benefit.
If one person in a couple is a pensioner, they will not see a reduction.
Also, if people take in a lodger they can keep the first £20 of the rent they get. But the rest of their housing benefit will be cut to take account of any more income from the lodger’s rent.
What are the arguments for this?
Conservative work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith says the move is intended to bring council and social housing waiting lists down by encouraging people to move to smaller properties.
He said: “This is about under-occupancy. We have in social sector housing a very large number of people in houses where they have many more bedrooms than they actually need.
“Something like a million spare bedrooms are sitting around. Meanwhile, there are a quarter of a million people in overcrowding and a million people on the waiting list trying to get into housing.
“What we’re saying to them is you can stay where you are, but if you do you’ll have to pay more. Exactly the same people in the same criteria who rent in the private sector and get housing benefit are not allowed to have extra bedrooms.”
What are the arguments against?
Many councils will not have the smaller homes available.
Wolverhampton North East Labour MP Emma Reynolds said: “It’s incredibly unfair. People want to move house but there are simply not the properties available for them. This bedroom tax will hit the poorest families with children the hardest.”
Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne added: “The plan is such a shambles that someone who’s been to prison on a short sentence won’t have to pay. How unfair is that? Millionaires and prisoners are looked after but vulnerable people, carers and armed forces families get hit.”