Bedroom tax could hit families

PLANS to penalise social tenants living in homes deemed too large for their needs could cost families in Northumberland up to £852 per year, new figures reveal.

The Government has previously estimated that 50,000 families across the North East will lose an average of £624 per year under the new social sector ‘size criteria’.

But analysis by the National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations, shows for the first time the true extent of the cuts faced by many families.

Based on cuts of up to 25 per cent of a family’s housing benefit that the Government is considering introducing in 2013, a household deemed to be under-occupying a three-bedroom home in Northumberland faces losing up to £16 per week of their housing benefit – £852 per year.

It says such a household would be forced to choose between going into debt, struggling to meet payments by cutting back on essentials or trying to move.

Under the current system, social landlords allocate families a home based on an assessment of their needs.

This may mean that teenagers are given their own bedroom and an additional bedroom may be provided to young couples planning to start a family.

Under the new size criteria, a family may be penalised for ‘under-occupying,’ even where every bedroom in the home is in regular use.

Monica Burns, the Federation’s lead manager for the North East, said: “We have been deeply concerned about this bedroom tax for some time but these new figures show the damage will be far worse than previously thought.”