Council tenants in Leeds are living a tale of two cities – with thousands of losers outnumbering a handful of winners.
The authority has seen its rent arrears shoot up by almost TWO MILLION pounds since the controversial ‘bedroom tax’ was introduced in April.
The authority is currently owed almost £6m in unpaid rent by its council housing tenants, compared to £4m at the end of 2012/13, a 50 per cent increase since the end of the last financial year.
But new figures show there are also some winners among the city’s council tenant population. By the end of August 2013, 196 people had completed sales under the Right to Buy scheme. Current projections show that 375 properties will be sold in 2013/14.
Campaigners said today the apparently contradictory numbers prove that housing policy is “just a mess”.
A new report says that 60 percent of Leeds council tenants affected by the bedroom tax were in arrears at the end of July. John Davies, spokesman for the Hands Off Our Homes campaign group, said he was “not at all surprised”. “If 60 per cent are in arrears, I am shocked that 40 per cent are still finding the extra money in their budget,” he said. “It will get worse, because we haven’t even had the energy prices firebomb fall yet. It will be a case of eating or heating or paying rent.”
Commenting on the rise in Right to Buy sales, he said: “If you get a 70 per cent discount, the mortgage repayments are probably going to be lower than the rent. The whole housing policy is just a mess”.
Rob Warm, head of external affairs for the National Housing Federation, said: “Many families are facing real financial hardship as a result of the bedroom tax. Some are struggling to pay the shortfall and falling into arrears despite intensive levels of support.” Conservative councillor John Procter, who chairs the council’s housing scrutiny panel, which will today examine the new figures, said the actual amount of arrears attributable to under-occupancy were a lot less than the £2m overall rise. “If there are people not paying their rent, then it’s our job to find out why,” he said.