THOUSANDS of the most deprived people in St Helens are being sent into a vicious spiral of debt and hardship by the government’s controversial “bedroom tax”.
That’s the verdict of the borough’s social housing chief, Rob Young, who has laid bare the devastating impact money-saving welfare reforms are having on Helena tenants.
Mr Young, the chief executive of Helena Partnerships, says 2,167 tenants are currently deemed to be under-occupying their property by one bedroom – resulting in a housing benefit cut of 14 per cent.
And 793 tenants are deemed to be under occupying by two bedrooms – resulting in a staggering 25 per cent benefits cut. Tenants in St Helens will now have to find aroiund £2.4m to cover the shortfall.
He said: “The so-called ‘bedroom tax’ is pushing tenants into spiralling debt and contributing to increased hardship in these already tough economic times.
“Social landlords are also under pressure – we are seeing an increase in three bedroom homes left unoccupied and experiencing a lower demand for these homes because tenants cannot afford to live in them.
“This can have a negative impact on the neighbourhoods we have worked so hard to create in partnership with our tenants and other agencies.”
Helena staff have already provided 2,400 tenants with face-to-face advice about how to survive the onset of the bedroom tax, but estimate tenants will now need to find a combined total of £2.4m per year to meet the shortfall in their housing benefit.
Many tenants have already challenged their rulings and staged protests in a bid to overturn them.
Helena bosses say it could take five years to move all the affected tenants into smaller properties.
Across the whole of Merseyside, more than 26,000 households are being adversely affected and housing associations could be set to lose a combined £22.9m a year to help tenants meet the shortfall in their housing benefit.
Mr Young added: “We are continuing to do everything we can to provide our tenants with the right advice and support that is tailored to their circumstances but there are just not enough smaller properties available.
“Helena remains committed to raising awareness about the impact welfare reform is having on our tenants and communities. We strongly believe the ‘bedroom tax’ must be repealed and we will continue to lobby the Government, supporting our partners and fellow landlords.”