Bedroom tax will cost taxpayers more

The coming bedroom tax will end up costing Scottish taxpayers more not less, a housing charity has warned.

Shelter Scotland is now calling on the Scottish Government to make £50m available to protect the country's tenants from the under-occupancy charge which is due in April.

Under the new rules, residents who are deemed to be under-occupying their social homes will see up to 25 percent cut from the housing benefit.

But the homelessness charity has warned that due to the shortage of one-bedroom social houses many will have to turn to the private rented sector - and with rents for one-bedroom properties in the private sector on average much higher than rent for two-bedroom social properties, the taxpayer will end up with a bigger bill to pay as the newly private tenants would qualify for full Local Housing Allowance (LHA) as they would no longer be assessed as under-occupying.

Shelter Scotland's analysis shows that on average in Edinburgh, the taxpayer would pay more than £100 extra in LHA each month and more than £200 extra per month in Aberdeen; Glasgow more than £100 per month extra, in Dundee it would be more than £50 per month extra and in Inverness nearly £100 per month more.

The charity has issued a three-point plan asking the Scottish Government for:

1) a guarantee that no-one should be evicted for bedroom tax arrears
2) no-one to be deemed intentionally homeless if evicted for Bedroom Tax arrears
3) make up to £50m available this year to protect social landlords from bankruptcy

It also wants a legislative ban on evictions for bedroom tax rent arrears to be considered if no voluntary guarantee can be agreed.

The bedroom tax is set to hit nearly 100,000 households across Scotland from April 1.

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “This analysis shows just how ill-conceived the bedroom tax is.

“The simple fact is that there are just not enough one-bedroom social homes for people to downsize to. This is going to force households to either make up the shortfall themselves, run up arrears and face possible eviction or move into the private sector where rents are much higher.

“It’s a no-win scenario. The householder loses their home and the public purse has to pay more to help with their housing costs in the private rented sector.

“It’s time the Westminster Government reversed this draconian reform and sent the bedroom tax to never-never land where it belongs!

“That is why I am urging Scotland’s Housing Minister Margaret Burgess MSP to set up an emergency summit of social landlords to agree measures for protecting Scotland’s tenants from the bedroom tax.”