'Bedroom tax is hitting landlords'

MPs have been told of serious pressures facing housing associations as rent arrears from the 'bedroom tax' start to hit.

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Housing officials told the work and Pensions Committee at the House of Commons the policy was hitting the tenants and the landlords.

One Tory MP on the committee argued people in difficulty could move to another part of the country, as, if they are not working, it doesn't matter where they live.

David Ogilvie, policy manager of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, said there were already difficulties facing the sector.

He said some smaller associations with only around 1000 homes do not have the resources to support tenants.

He said: "A survey in June showed the total arrears were 3-4% of income in 2012.

"We are already in a situation where the financial environment has been testing with banking covenants.

"Certain banks have been circling like birds of prey at the first sign of a breach of covenant."

Mr Ogilvie, who has previously given evidence to the Scottish Parliament's Welfare Reform committee, told the MPs that it was estimated it would take somewhere between three and 10 years to allocate smaller houses to all the people affected by the policy.

He said this was assuming that all available one-bedroom homes went to people downsizing to escape the bedroom tax.

He added: "This creates a huge headache. The ability to achieve homelessness targets is being undermined. People will be left in temporary accommodation for longer and more people will still be in inappropriate accommodation."

Dame Angela Watkinson, Conservative MP for Hornchurch and Upminster, said: "Some people do not work so it doesn't matter where they live if they are taxpayer dependent."

The London MP said she was not talking about disabled people but: "people who are fit for work but chose not to."

Other housing officials from around the UK told her there were other reasons why people couldn't simply pick up and move, including relocation costs and support networks, like childcare sharing.

Mr Ogilvie told the MPs the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations was not asked in advance of the new law, which came in in April this year, how many smaller properties were available.

He said: "We made submissions throughout the course of the passing of the Bill."

stewart.paterson@ eveningtimes.co.uk

Local government

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