PLANS to penalise tenants living in homes deemed too large for their needs could cost families in Pendle up to £909 a year, new figures reveal.
The Government has previously estimated 120,000 families across the North West will lose an average of £624 a year under the new social sector “size criteria”.
But analysis by the National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations, shows the true extent of the cuts faced by many families.
Based on cuts of up to 25% 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 Pendle, faces losing up to £17 a week of their housing benefit – or £909 a year.
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 – even if no suitable alternative properties are available.
Under the current system, social landlords like housing associations allocate families a home based on an assessment of their needs. This may mean teenagers are given their own bedroom, and an additional bedroom may be provided to young couples planning to start a family.
Where a family is out of work, housing benefit covers the rent, which is far lower than in the private sector.
Under the new size criteria, a family may be penalised for “under-occupying”, even where every bedroom in the home is in regular use. For example, benefits may be cut where teenagers have been given their own bedroom, rather than having to share. Separated parents will be penalised for keeping a “spare” bedroom for when their children visit.
And foster parents will receive a cut even where their bedrooms are occupied by foster children, who for benefit purposes do not count as part of the household.
Anyone deemed to be under-occupying by one bedroom stands to lose up to 15% of their housing benefit, and those considered to have two or more “spare” bedrooms – even if they are in use – will lose up to 25% of their benefit.
Two-thirds of those affected are disabled, the Department for Work and Pensions has admitted.
Jon Longden, lead manager for the North West for the National Housing Federation, 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.”