‘Bedroom Tax’

The government will be bringing in what has been dubbed a ‘bedroom tax’ on those who receive housing benefit. The term, whilst suitably emotive for those who oppose the move, is not accurate as it isn’t a tax, but a reduction in housing benefits for any bedroom classed as unoccupied. Now, in itself, that would not be a bad thing. Too many houses in the UK are underoccupied and it would be good if people were encouraged to move into more suitable accommodation so that families could live in suitable housing. The problems with the new measures, however, are threefold.

The main problem is that, having been devised by wealthy ministers and civil servants living in big houses (and quite probably underoccupying themselves) is that it does not reflect reality. Boys and girls will not have to share a bedroom if they are over ten, but same-sex children under sixteen will only be allocated one room per pair under the scheme, even if their ages are far apart  – it is bad enough that so many children are forced to share rooms inappropriately due to a lack of housing without those lucky ones with their own rooms being punished for it. Forcing, say, a five year old boy and a fifteen year old boy to share a bedroom isn’t great at the best of times and is a surprising move in an age in which concerns are frequently flagged over the sexualisation of children and exposure to pornography.

Moreover, the penalty, at least as it is being described, kicks in immediately that a room becomes underoccupied – meaning that people will find themselves punished should someone die and leave a room empty and that any thoughts of children moving out will have to be weighed against moving or finding someone else to replace them. This would also apply if someone who wasn’t receiving housing benefits was forced to claim and was classed as underoccupying.

There is also no clear compulsion for underoccupiers to be rehoused speedily. Essentially, they will find themselves punished if they have a room officially classed as disused, but, unless they are able to move into alternative landlord accommodation or organise a swap, will be left to the whim of their council or housing association as far as moving goes. In fact, this gets to the heart of the matter – rather than punishing underoccupancy, it would be better if not underoccupying was to be rewarded, such as by offering some sort of financial incentive to move to a smaller place and ensuring speedy relocation for those willing to downsize. Naturally, anything like that would cost money and take time and effort, so, instead, we see this plan put in place.

Naturally this does nothing to tackle the  underoccupancy that occurs in privately owned houses, nor those that are rented by people not receiving housing benefit. Given that few single working-age people are going to be underoccupying, the main victims will be families and the elderly whose children have flown the nest, the sort of people we should be helping not hurting.

Essentially, the entire housing issue needs a new approach. The government should cap rents, ensure that all disused buildings are occupied and make it much easier for people to downsize in social housing. Given that many people on housing benefit are actually in work, the government needs to stop seeing them as some sort of enemy and work with them to ensure fair housing for all. Of course, that’s unlikely to happen as painting people on benefits as ‘economic bloodsuckers’ helps to distract attention from all the politicians, civil servants and council officers who are scamming the country on expenses and ridiculous wages whilst failing to do a good job. We need to declare war on the scroungers, alright, but they’re those in positions of authority, not those on benefits!

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Comments
One Response to “‘Bedroom Tax’”
  1. john mc donagh says:

    Your piece is bang on. As soon as the tories get in they work on dividing people through the politics of envy. The tories are a utter disgrace. I have watched them and the media stoke up resentment against this or that benefit theif making out thay anyone on benfits is a lazy so and so ripping of the state. Problem is that the labour and liberal parties fell into that way of thinking. But everyone should know that the 120 billion big business tax rip off goes on. It is high time that civil unrest and rioting particularly around those big under occupied tory houses began. I for one can’t wait. Anyone reading this may consider signing the e pettition on the government web site.

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