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3,300 Dundee households to be hit by ‘bedroom tax’

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MORE THAN 3,300 Dundee households face having their housing benefit slashed when the controversial bedroom tax is introduced in April.

New figures from the city council’s housing department have revealed the proposals will cost tenants in the social rented housing sector £1.3 million a year.

One charity has warned the tax will “inevitably” cause an increase in homelessness.

Occupancy Tax, or “bedroom tax” will apply to people of working age who rent their home from a council or housing authority.

People affected will see their housing benefit reduced if they are considered to live in a home with more bedrooms than they need.

Those deemed to have one extra bedroom will have their housing benefit cut by 14% and those with two or more extra bedrooms will incur a 25% cut.

Senior Dundee politicians have hit out at what they have called the “cruelty” of the tax.

Housing convener Jimmy Black said: “From the figures we see that 3,387 households will be affected in total in Dundee.

“Of these, 583 will lose 25% of their housing benefit and the other 2,084 will lose 14%.

“Tenants in two-bedroom council properties will lose benefit entitlement of approximately £9.93 each per week, or £516 a year.

“Those with two ‘spare’ rooms in a council property will lose entitlement of £20.07 per week, or £1,044 per year.”

Mr Black warned the bedroom tax will mean “real hardship”.

“It will mean less money to spend on food, fuel and essential clothing,” he said.

“Loan companies will only lend to people on benefit at very high rates of interest and there is only so much that Credit Unions can do to help.

“Tenants cannot just suddenly move to a smaller house, because there are not enough smaller houses.

“The tax could only have been dreamed up be people who have never been poor.”

The projected £1.3 million shortfall only covers affected tenants in council properties. The figure could be higher when housing association tenants are also taken into account.

Dundee East MP Stewart Hosie said he has already been contacted by constituents concerned that they will be forced to leave their homes or find money to pay for their “spare room”.

“One constituent is very upset that his daughters will no longer be able to stay with him because he cannot afford to top up his rent when housing benefit is cut,” he said.

“The crazy logic of this is that, if families lose their homes over this, councils will have the very expensive task of rehousing them.

“It would be cheaper to brick up their so-called spare bedrooms and leave them where they are.

“This is a cruel change by the UK Government which will hit many thousands of households in Dundee alone.”

Shelter Scotland last night warned the new tax could cause an increase in people sleeping rough.

Director Graeme Brown said: “The UK Government’s changes to the local housing allowance are forcing people out of their homes just because they have a ‘spare’ room.

“Penalising people for having an extra room also assumes that there is a ready supply of smaller or shared properties for them to move to. This is simply not the case in Dundee or elsewhere.

“The consequence will be people forced to move in with strangers or stuck in homes with mounting rent arrears and a further descent into debt.

“Our worry is that, with these cuts leading to increased hardship, our best efforts and those of others in the advice sector will only scratch at the surface of the problem.”

ksmyth@thecourier.co.uk

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