One year on and 143 people in Crawley in arrears due to ‘bedroom tax’

More than 140 households in Crawley have fallen into rent arrears due to changes in the housing benefit system, known as the bedroom tax.

Under the new system, people in receipt of housing benefit who have one or more spare bedrooms in their home are required to downgrade to a smaller property or lose a portion of their benefit – a spare room subsidy.

Figures released by Crawley Borough Council showed that, as of March 7, there were 278 tenants in arrears.

A council spokesman said, with 135 of those already in arrears before the introduction of the bedroom tax, 143 tenants had gone into arrears purely as a result of the spare room subsidy.

Since the system was introduced a year ago, 805 people have had their benefit reduced – 121 housing association tenants and 684 council tenants.

Of those, 236 were deemed to be suffering sufficient hardship to need a Discretionary Housing Payment.

When it came to the option of downsizing, 210 tenants applied to move but, due to the lack of one and two-bedroom properties available, only 37 have been successful.

The lack of small properties was put to West Sussex County Council leader Cllr Louise Goldsmith when she appeared on the Sunday Politics show at the weekend.

Cllr Goldsmith said she felt the policy would encourage the building of more smaller homes for those wishing to downsize.

She added: “It’s a very difficult situation but people are aware what’s been happening and what we’re doing with the benefits. It’s not simply just popped out from nowhere.

Acknowledging the lack of smaller homes, Cllr Richard Burrett, Cabinet member for housing, added: “Any policy of this nature will always create some winners and some losers by its very nature, but I believe it is fundamentally unfair for the public purse to be subsidising the cost of unused bedrooms when there are many families on the housing register waiting for larger family accommodation which is unavailable to them, and any policy which seeks to free up such accommodation must be beneficial to those families in housing need.”