There has been a lot of media coverage about the “bedroom tax”, so much so that even the finance expert Martin Lewis from moneysavingexpert.com has taken to Twitter to explain the reality.
What is the problem?
There are almost 2 million people on waiting lists for social housing.
There are tens of thousands of families claiming Housing Benefit who live in houses which are too small for them. Likewise there are tens of thousands of homes paid for by Housing Benefit which are too big for the people living in them.
What IS the “bedroom tax”?
Firstly, it is not a tax on bedrooms, in fact it is not a tax at all! It is a change to Housing Benefit payments being made to tenants in social housing. Currently people claiming Housing Benefit but living in private rented accommodation receive an amount to cover their housing need rather than the size of the house e.g. one bedroom per adult or couple.
This change will ensure that everyone who receives Housing Benefit will get it on the same basis; everybody getting Housing Benefit will be treated equally.
In future, for Housing Benefit purposes, all eligible households will be given taxpayer help for a home that has the number of bedrooms needed per person or couple. People can still live in homes with more bedrooms than they need but they will have to pay for the extra bedrooms themselves.
Housing Benefit will pay for one bedroom for:
- each adult couple
- each other person over 16
- two children of the same-sex under 16
- two children under 10, regardless of their sex
- any other child
- an overnight carer you need but who doesn’t normally live with you.
For people with one spare bedroom there will be a 14% reduction in Housing Benefit and for two or more spare bedrooms it will be 25%.
The government has agreed to re-examine the situation for people claiming certain disability benefits after lobbying by a number of charities.
None of these changes will affect anybody who is a pensioner and living in social housing.
To most people it seems fair that all tenants receiving Housing Benefit should be treated equally and that the taxpayer should only pay for what people need. That is what these changes to Housing Benefit do.