Government urged to rethink bedroom tax given second Lords defeat
Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) is urging government to agree concessions on its proposed ‘bedroom tax’ before the Welfare Reform Bill is returned to the House of Commons.
CIH has repeatedly raised concerns about the under occupation reforms – which penalise social housing tenants with a spare room – and has questioned both the scale of savings government will achieve and the evidence used to justify reform.
If last night’s amendment is accepted by government many households will still be exposed to an unfair penalty and significant problems will emerge over time, but the concessions for the most vulnerable in society will be helpful.
Grainia Long, CIH interim chief executive, said: “The arguments made by the Lords last night are based on a solid understanding of good housing management: we do not want to see the new benefits system undermine the efforts of professionals to make the lives of individuals and communities as stable as possible.
“The Lords have twice backed amendments to reform this wrong-headed measure; there is explicit support for a different approach from more than 70 organisations; and we have heard emotional illustrations of the likely unavoidable impact of these reforms on low income households up and down the country.
“We need government to sit down again with housing professionals to take on board the reality on the ground in the design of the legislation. Only by drawing on the experience of those who provide social housing, some of which informed the Lords debate last night, will government be able to deliver a system of help with housing costs that actually works.”
Baroness Hollis, speaking in the House of Lords last night, pointed out how difficult it will be for households penalised by the under occupancy tax given the short supply of smaller properties.
She said: ”I believe that at the core of the policy on under occupation is a fundamental dishonesty… That is because it states that people of working age must downsize if they have one spare bedroom but, as the government acknowledge in their own impact analysis, those smaller flats and houses to which people should move do not exist. The government acknowledge that 85 per cent of people will therefore have to stay put.”
In an effort to avoid parliamentary ‘ping pong’, where the Bill goes back and forth between the two Houses until they reach a compromise, the government is set to use the controversial ‘financial privilege’ to ensure the House of Lords can’t reject the Bill once it’s been passed by the Commons.