Lib Dems to hear demand to abolish 'deeply flawed' bedroom tax

Delegates at the Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow will today hear the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations' (SFHA) demand for a repeal of the bedroom tax.

The SFHA believes that the government's controversial under-occupancy policy is "deeply flawed" and that it is causing widespread disruption to Scotland's social housing sector.

The Federation will tell delegates that rather than saving money, it is likely to cost more to implement and will explain that tenants cannot readily downsize as a supply of smaller properties does not exist.

Mary Taylor, chief executive of the SFHA, said: “The policy ignores the structural mismatch between the profile of housing stock and households. The plain fact is that tenants can’t readily downsize because there simply isn’t the supply of smaller, alternative properties for them to move into.

“It is driving up rent arrears in the social housing sector, which is reducing the revenues available to maintain existing social housing stock. It is also increasing rent collection costs, which have to be paid from rental income. It is actually undermining the long-term viability of social housing providers across the UK."

The bedroom tax, which sees social housing tenants docked up to 25% of their housing benefit if they are deemed to have too many spare bedrooms, was last week condemned by the UN's special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik, who called the policy "shocking" and a breach of human rights.

Mary Taylor added: “Discretionary Housing Payments, which aim to help households struggling with housing costs, will provide support to some tenants for a short time, but they are not a long-term solution.

“Housing supply is not a tap – it cannot be turned on and off at will without having consequences in future years. Building one-bedroom units in the long run may be a big mistake – a reasonable supply is needed, but they should not be the main focus of development if we are to create balanced communities. Housing investment has to be geared to meet both existing and future housing needs and this relies on a steady income stream.

“The bedroom tax is having disastrous consequences on the lives of tenants and the businesses of social landlords and that is why we are calling for it to be repealed immediately.”