Opinion Former Article

Bed tax vote will hit thousands, warns NHF

Thousands of families in social housing face being driven into poverty after the Government rejected moves to protect vulnerable people from the bedroom tax.

Today in the House of Commons, MPs voted by a margin of 316 to 263 – a majority of 53 - to reject the Lords' compromise amendment to the Welfare Reform Bill.

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said:

“Today’s result is a blow to thousands of families in social housing across the country, many of whom are already struggling to make ends meet.”

“That nearly 80 organisations, from disability charities to mortgage lenders, and peers and MPs of all parties, came together in support of this change to the Welfare Reform Bill shows just how important this issue is.

“But today our voices, and those of tenants, have been ignored. This unfair bedroom tax will penalise some of Britain’s most vulnerable families for under-occupying their homes when they have nowhere to move to.”

The Government plans to use the Welfare Reform Bill to cut the housing benefit of any working-age social tenant deemed to be “under-occupying” their social home - a bedroom tax that would see tenants lose up to £22 a week.

In December the Lords voted for a compromise amendment to protect families with just one additional bedroom if no suitable alternative is available. Earlier this month, the Government claimed financial privilege and rejected the proposals.

A week ago the Welfare Reform Bill again returned to the Lords. Peers voted for another compromise amendment to exempt disabled people, war widows and foster carers with nowhere else to move to.

But today in the Commons the Government again rejected the Lords’ proposals.

David Orr said: “The financial cost of this modest compromise would have been tiny - a fraction of the money lost yearly through administrative error in the benefit system.

“But the social impact of rejecting it will be devastating. This bedroom tax will hurt some of Britain’s most vulnerable families, forcing many into poverty.

“Discretionary Housing Payments are not an appropriate response. The funds are insufficient and won’t even be ringfenced to protect those they are supposed to help.

“We will be working hard with housing associations to make sure these unfair proposals do as little damage as possible to the lives of social housing tenants.”

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