Social housing abyss means bedroom tax will cost us dearly

The Manchester Gazette ran this striking image alongside an article on what the bedroom tax would mean for that city. You can tell that they weren’t thrilled.

The failure of government to replenish social housing means that the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’ from April next year will lead to a huge increase in human suffering.

It was (of course) the Conservative Party that first decided to sell off council houses, at discounts that went up to 70 per cent. The first sales took place in 1980, piloted by Michael Heseltine, after the plan had appeared in the Tory manifestos for 1974 and 1979.

Even then, the Tories were obsessing about shrinking the state. This, and the now-infamous privatisation of state industrial/utility assets, were both conceived as populist moves to encourage private sector alternatives indirectly. They understood that the welfare state was popular and that a frontal assault on it would harm their own credibility.

The plan was phenomenally successful. By 1990, 1.2 million houses had been sold – one-fifth of the entire council house stock. The sales raised £20 billion.

Whatever happened to that money?

We know it did not go into new council house construction – the annual level slumped from 86,000 to 21,000 during the 1980s and this meant there was a worsening social housing shortage by 1990.

Now, more than 20 years further on, that shortage is diabolical.

Everyone who is affected will know that the bedroom tax affects anyone who has a bedroom that is going spare, according to strict rules devised by the Coalition government. I’ve gone into these rules elsewhere so I won’t rehash them.

The intended result – what the government wants – is generally taken to be that people with too many bedrooms will ‘downsize’; they’ll move into smaller homes.

The problem with that is: there aren’t any. This means people who no longer have the funds to stay where they are will have no choice but to continue doing so anyway, getting into a debt that they may not be able to repay.

Housing associations have already stated that they cannot afford to fund the deficit that is likely to build up, meaning they will throw people out onto the streets.

But don’t take my word for it. Many Vox readers are affected by this. Let’s see what they have to say.

“I’d bet money that most social housing countrywide is (or was – before the great sell-off of the 1980s and 1990s) three-bedroomed,” according to my blogging colleague Smiling Carcass. “Almost all were built as homes for families; three and four bedrooms, gardens, and flats generally had two or more bedrooms. There just isn’t, and never was, enough single accommodation to displace all the ‘under-occupied’ people from three- and four-bedroomed houses because they were conceived as family homes for life.”

How about this from Joanna Terry: “Not only is there an issue with the amount of one-bed properties available, (none where I live) but what about those just below pension age that need to sleep in separate bedrooms because of their health (I have a friend like this)? You can’t force people like this, not without causing phenomenal stress.”

“This will massively impact, mostly on the women now in their 50s who are divorced,” wrote Victoria Brown. “Chances are they are the same women who have struggled and raised children alone on either benefits or very low income jobs and because that child has flown the nest that is the reason they now have a spare room. We are alone and childless with no purpose and soon no home too. Many will kill themselves rather than live on the streets or commit a crime to at least get prison accommodation because there are no one-bedroom properties for us to downsize in to and there is no spare cash if you are on benefits to pay the Bedroom Tax with.”

Tony Bennet wrote: “There are times I feel like giving up. The more I read about these changes, the more I see it will affect us and we will be lucky to keep our home. With the changes to DLA and the UC I can’t see how I will be able to pay our bills and feed us.”

Morry: “I am going to be taxed on a box room that you might – if you’re lucky – fit a single bed in, and that would be it. I can barely manage to survive as it is and that means wearing as much clothing as possible and keeping the heat off as long as possible and living on salad and sandwiches. I have also been trying to get out of this house for the last five years.”

Graham: “We have asked for a bungalow/ground floor flat – one-bedroomed, so no stairs to climb. Guess what? There are none – not enough to go around. The Government know this, but they are intoducing a law to tax us knowing that there are not enough houses.”

There are not enough houses.

Back in 1974, the then-simply-Margaret Thatcher MP outlined her plans: “Our new policies are designed for the needs of today. A nation of home owners, who will be self-reliant, independent and able to do what they want with their own lives in their own homes.”

That was her self-professed dream. It seems modern Conservatives, propped up by the Liberal Democrats, are determined to turn it into a nightmare.

16 thoughts on “Social housing abyss means bedroom tax will cost us dearly

  1. Silver

    I have lived in my council house,now a housing association for nearly 60 years.I never bought my house,even though I could have got a big discount.I thought it morally wrong.

    Now,only my Wife and Myself live here in this three bedroomed,one room is a tiny boxroom with a cotbed in it,has our three year old grandson,often stays with us.My Wife and I sleep in separate rooms through health reasons.I have kidney trouble,and go to the toilet,frequently at night.Which would wake her up,my Wife as bad arthritis,plus I use many more blankets than her because my kidney problems make me colder.

    I have done a lot of work in the past,on my home.It might be rented property but its our home.The house is in good order,thanks in part to the work I invested in my home.The gardens are landscaped,done 15 years ago by me.It has a large shed,which I built about twenty years ago.Still in good order.

    I do not want to leave,or give up my home.

    1. nikki

      hi you say you have lived i the property for nearly 60 yrs well if you are over 61.5 yrs in age you are infact exempt from the BT and also the new council tax contributions

  2. Joan

    I used to work for our local Housing Association until I retired a couple of years ago. It was created by the sell-off of the entire region’s council housing stock. Our problem was the opposite of what is being said here, although equally as bad. All the decent family-sized homes had been snappped up by their greedy owners, many of which were instantly sold on at vast profits, with the right-to-buy being still round our association’s neck, so long as the tenancy didn’t change. We were left with many 1 bedroom flats, sitting empty, that were totally unsuitable for most people looking for a home.

  3. Commonly Known As Mer

    this is about the rich pushing out the poor out of their homes. Not only is this a way of pining everyone down, but watch as people start to vacate their homes as this is when the property developers step in and snap up all these homes. Truely shocking …who votes for these people?

  4. Mandyque

    I have a disabled daughter and adult son living with me in my 3 bedroom ‘council’ house (now owned by private company Tristar). My daughter is in a tiny box bedroom, which has space for a single bed, and hardly enough room for two people to be in there when I am seeing to her care needs. My son is 21 and wants to move out and make a life of his own, but when he goes, I will be taxed on his room. I can move my daughter into his room, but it will need adapting, as her box room already is, to cater for her needs.

    Just the thought of moving house fills me with dread, after all, it’s not just a case of walking into a new house and living there, it’s the adaptations that will need to be made for my daughter, and the simple logistics of moving all our furniture and stuff from this house to the new one and making that house a home. It’s a hugely costly endeavour, on top of the fact that I am a single parent with health problems which mean I can’t do a lot of lifting, carrying and decorating, are the government going to help with this cost? Of course not. So I’m trapped either way, I pay their tax on my tiny box room, or I pay for moving to a new house, which may or may not be available from Tristar or other reasonably priced housing associations.

    How much further are they going to squeeze the poor? How many people who were just about comfortable are now falling into the ‘poor’ category?

    1. Mike Sivier

      The issue of adaptations for the disabled, and of the expense that would come with moving house – adaptations and all – is one that the government has avoided. How convenient for it!
      This is something that would affect me if I had to move, as my girlfriend is disabled. We would not have the money to manage it.

  5. fkilmore

    A lot of two beds are given to couples/single because they are unwanted by others…people are choosy and turn down certain types of property until they get what they want, so housing associations give these unpopular two beds to couples/singles…otherwise they would be empty and the Housing assoc would get nothing for an empty property…

    1. Mike Sivier

      Some people don’t have the opportunity to choose, though.
      Also, even if more two-bedroom properties ought to be available, that’s no help if there aren’t any ONE-bedroom properties for people to downsize into!
      Housing Associations won’t get anything for empty three-bedroom properties either, but might end up with a lot of them if they follow through on the threat to throw people out. Then what? Sell them to private landlords/property developers at a profit? That will mean even fewer rentable properties – at a price working-class or middle-class people can afford.

  6. RisingFodder

    I live alone in a council bungalow with adaptions and alarms. I’m disabled. I have an extra small bedroom that is used to house some exercise equipment needed to keep my body reasonably strong, on advice from physio’s.
    I’ve also received notice of the upcoming bedroom tax and two different written statements from council. One to say disabled people will have to pay and the other stating that we are protected. This is from a Tory council !
    I wonder which is truth ?
    So very soon, along with the hyper-stressful battles of claiming ESA and DLA, HB and CTB, I may or may not have to pay an extra £14 for a spare room.
    I need to live here. But the way I see it, there’s no way out of this ever decreasing spiral of Government sanctioned hell for, those of us who have to rely on the welfare state.

  7. Tricia Gray

    This is a huge problem causing real distress and fear. People have had letters and phone calls asking if they want to downsize, move or go onto a transfer list. It’s not so easy the issues are complex and huge.

    1. fkilmore

      I put in for a transfer last June when I heard about it, but dont have enough points…so they wont move me (to a one)..yet expect me to pay bedroom tax….although it does not apply to PRIVATE rents, you can have two or three bed if it is within your allowance…but private is risky ,and rents will go up when they realise people are desperate to avoid bed tax…I have not had notification yet, but its better to pay than move..hoping it will be revoked eventually because it is so unfair..

  8. LisaR

    What I cannot understand of the Tory reasoning is if they want to stop housing and council tax benefits for young folk under 25 by forcing them back to their parents house……if they are expecting parents whose kids have left home to move to a one bedroom home or risk reduced benefits……how are their kids supposed to move back if parents have moved and theres no spare bedrooms. Its crazy!

  9. fuckthetories

    As far as I am aware, there is no definition of a bedroom in law and the government states it is left to the Landlord to define. There are many who rent in the private sector, and some in social housing who have a spare ground floor room designated as a dining room, or even a utility room. I have a friend in this position. My friend doesn’t have a spare bedroom, but has a dining room which she could put a bed in if she so wished and there would be jack the government could do about it.
    So what next? Taxed on the number of square metres we occupy, or a return to the window tax?

  10. Kim Forbes

    One part of this “Bedroom Tax” condition is that children under 10 years are required to share a bedroom regardless of gender (!!!!?????). How ridiculous is this? I wonder if government officials would consider a widespread survey (in schools would be a starting point) where children within the age bracket of 7 to 10 are interviewed and asked how they would feel about this stupid and totally abnoxious idea?
    Children deserve privacy and respect! Some young girls can start developing and menstruating as young as nine years, so what would that be like for them if they are sharing a room with their brother? Children also become aware of their own bodies at a very young age and shyness is natural a form of self-protection coupled with the fact that sex education is now taught in primary schools! What about children living in disfunctional families where morals are loosely instilled? What protection would a small female child have against an older brother who decides he wants to “experiment”? Very young children are quite capable of committing horrendous criminal acts!
    I have three girls and three boys (all adults now) who would have held it against me for a lifetime if I had made any one of them share to that age with a sibling of the opposite sex! What about detrimental psychological consequences? This government obviously deems the basic human rights and welfare of the child as insignificant when it comes to reeling in the pounds!!!
    Ten years is too old! Five years should be the very maximum age for this disgusting crime on the part of the government to be inflicted!

    MR CAMERON AND YOUR CRONIES!

    ARE YOU GOING TO EXIT YOUR MULTIPLE DWELLING PROPERTIES AND CRAM YOURSELVES INTO INADEQUATE LIVING SPACES AND PAIR UP YOUR CHILDREN TO DO THE SAME? NO! OF COURSE YOU WON’T!

    BUT WE ALL HAVE TO LISTEN TO YOUR “SAVE THE ECONOMY” PLATITUDES!

    WELL HERE ARE A FEW SUGGESTIONS ON HOW TO FILL YOUR COFFERS:

    1 CLEAN YOUR OWN HOUSES INSTEAD OF PAYING FOR DOMESTIC STAFF.

    2 TAKE YOUR MULITPLE YEARLY HOLIDAYS IN BRITAIN AND BOOST TOURISM.

    3 DRIVE PRACTICAL CARS AND GET RID OF THE LIMOUSINES.

    4 STOP HELPING YOURSELVES TO THE TAXPAYERS’ MONEY AS “BONUS” ENTITLEMENTS.

    5 STOP HAVING FUNCTION BANQUETS.

    6 STOP CLAIMING GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIES TO COVER FAMILY MEMBER EMPLOYMENT.

    7 SPEND LESS ON STATUS ENHANCING AESTHETICS IN THE HOME AND OTHERWISE.

    8 SEND YOUR CHILDREN TO STATE SCHOOLS.

    9 BY YOUR CLOTHING IN DISCOUNT STORES.

    10 STOP FOOD SUBSIDIES FOR THE HOUSE OF COMMONS AND TAKE PACKED LUNCHES.

    This government expects the people of this country to scrimp, save and scrape the bottom of the barrel! They expect the people of this country to live in fear of destitution and shame! They expect the people of this country to give up basic human rights and dignity! And now this unreasonable and inhumane dichotomy of the enhancement rich and the despoliation of the less fortunate is directly placing children in danger of yet more mental and psychological damage.

    HEY MR CAMERON AND FRIENDS!

    HOW ABOUT YOU ALL PRACTISE WHAT YOU PREACH!

    1. Joan

      These age bands are being used for benefits now but have been in place for housing association allocation policies for several years. I can’t remember exactly when it changed, approximately 5 or 6 years ago, but I was working for a HA’s IT department at the time and had to update the policy. If I remember rightly, it went from under 8 to under 10 years for mixed gender and from under 12 to under 16 for same gender. In an ideal world all kids would have their own rooms but it’s simply not practical with the limited social housing stock avalaible. That said, I certainly do not agree with the bedroom tax which will cut benefits to many tenants who do not have the choice to move.

  11. Mel

    why isn’t there a massive protest being proposed by the protesters…isn’t it strange that the media are not making much of a news coverage of this…because most of them are behind the government i believe.. The government say, they need to house families, and there arn’t enough of the bigger houses…well, in that case they should impose the same penalties to people, (even if they are working and not claiming benefits), ‘but still pay the same rent as a benefit claimant’ for the privilege of having spare bedrooms too., and increase their rent by the same percentage!

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