Blog: Bedroom Tax 2 – DWP’s warped logic must be challenged

David Bookbinder
David Bookbinder

It might seem trite to term the proposed LHA limits on social housing as ‘Bedroom Tax 2’ but it’s completely legitimate, writes David Bookbinder.

The reasoning behind the proposed cuts (though ‘reasoning’ might be putting it generously) is even more warped than the thinking behind the original bedroom tax.

As a reminder, in April 2019 the help social housing tenants get with their rent will be limited to the Local Housing Allowance, for any tenancy beginning after 1 April 2016.

The greatest impact will be on people in supported accommodation, where rents tend to be higher than normal, and on people under 35 in mainstream housing, whose LHA limit will be the shared accommodation rate (see the Scottish rates here and remember they’re frozen until at least March 2021).

The DWP, who’ve already had to admit they were wrong to claim (last week) that the changes wouldn’t affect any existing tenants, say the changes will mean that “people on benefits face the same choices as everyone else”.

The only possible logic anyone can take from applying the shared accommodation rate is that the DWP believes people under 35 living in a one-bed flat should share their home with another tenant.

You don’t need telling that this is bonkers. If a tenant asks their landlord for consent to put someone up in the living room, it won’t normally be statutory overcrowding but will landlords really feel comfortable about this? Is DWP really expecting tenants to do this?

And anyway, the Scottish Secure Tenancy regime doesn’t even allow for unrelated households sharing a home to have anything other than a joint tenancy, so the existing tenant would become jointly liable for the behaviour of the incomer.

It just doesn’t make any sense for the DWP to compare the social sector with the private rented sector here. In the PRS there’s a history of house sharing with people you may not know, but that’s never been the case with social housing, and certainly not in one-bed flats.

These cuts will put social landlords in a hopeless, no-win position: is making an offer to someone whose benefit won’t cover the rent likely to be deemed a reasonable offer? In the end its tenants, homeless applicants and others who’ll lose out.

OK, politicians tend to toe the party line, but I don’t think many of them have yet worked out how utterly irrational this cut is. The clock’s ticking – we need to work in partnership with colleagues in Scotland and the UK to get it banished.

  • David Bookbinder is director of the Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations
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