THE so-called “bedroom tax” has been conceived to achieve the Department for Work and Pensions’ desired housing benefit reductions in a fairer way, while also achieving a rebalancing of the social housing stock according to tenants’ needs.
Its introduction has been perceived by those on housing benefit as a penalty when their circumstances are less than ideal to begin with, and the cost could well precipitate a downward spiral in life. The social housing provider may not even have smaller housing units available. Penalties will also make families think twice about encouraging young adults to leave home.
The considerable investment made by social housing providers must nevertheless be recognised, particularly in these parlous times. While the social housing provider commits to provide housing appropriate to the tenancy requirements at the time of taking on a tenancy, the provider cannot reasonably continue long-term with that provision if it becomes underutilised, just as the provider must take account of increased requirements for growing families or children passing age thresholds. However, the introduction of a penalty is not the best way to achieve a balanced social housing stock.
A better and fairer approach would be to reflect the necessity to move in tenancy agreements and to provide incentives to smooth the transition, the DWP penalty only applying if the tenant declined to move, or failed to inform the social housing provider of a reduced requirement. Tenants would then know where they stood, and the transition would be less painful.
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