The head of the North East’s biggest homeless charity has revealed the Government’s bedroom tax is even effecting those who sleep on the streets.
Cyrenians chair and former MP k has said the group has been warned by housing providers they will soon be unable to hand over the types of properties usually made available for homeless people.
The problem, the charity has been told, is caused by more need for previously undesirable one-bedroom properties to be handed over to tenants trying to downsize to avoid the cuts in housing benefits facing those with spare rooms. The Government’s benefits changes have seen rent arrears in parts of the North East rise by £500,000 in two months, with Newcastle thought among the hardest hit.
As housing associations are swamped with calls for more one-bedroom properties, the homeless are being pushed to the bottom of the list, the Cyrenians warn. In the House of Lords Former Durham MP Baroness Armstrong told of problems facing the region’s homeless. The ex-housing minister said: “Many homeless organisations are trying to move as many people as possible from hostel accommodation in to independent living. However, that is now being put at threat because of the changes to the benefits system and, of course, the bedroom tax.
“In Newcastle, the local housing company has had to warn the Cyrenians, which is the biggest supplier, if you like, of work with the homeless, that it is coming to the stage where it will not be able to allocate any properties to the homeless because it will have to use them for people being transferred within their own estate.”
Stephen Bell, chief executive at the charity, said that a “rapidly changing benefits landscape” was creating “challenges for everyone involved in the housing world.”
He added: “We, along with partners in the sector, are working hard to react positively and proactively and are keeping our focus firmly on those for whom this matters most, people and families in housing need or crisis.”
Lord Freud, for the Department of Work and Pensions, admitted there were issues to be resolved.
He said: “Our best estimate is that there are about 9,000 bedrooms for people who are rough sleepers. A proportion of those may be affected by this particular provision. Authorities need to look at the other sources of funding, including the Supporting People programme, which received £6.5bn in this spending review.”