Tai Ceredigion have warned that upcoming changes to housing benefit will mean serious financial problems for some people that could lead to increased homelessness in the county.
The not-for-profit housing association took over the County Council’s housing stock in 2009. Their Chief Executive, Steve Jones, now says,
“The Government’s 40% public sector capital cutbacks will inevitably reduce spending on housing and thereby compound the current desperate housing shortage. Whilst homelessness is often associated with cities, the rural situation is as bad, if not worse, because of the limited supply of accommodation available.
"There is a huge need for more social housing in Ceredigion to meet the needs of local people, many of whom are on very low incomes. These include working single persons and families who are going to be worst hit by the UK Government's changes to Housing Benefit for single persons under 35 years as well as the Bedroom Tax to be introduced in April 2013.
"The Bedroom Tax will affect working age tenants in homes where they do not use all bedrooms. There is widespread talk of people in their 40s and 50s ‘under occupying’ three-bedroom houses and that they should move to smaller one or two-bedroom accommodation - but in rural areas like Ceredigion, where are these properties? They simply do not exist and the UK 40% capital spending cut means there is a lot less Social Housing Grant available to build new smaller homes” .
The Association has produced data and modelling to highlight the effect of the Westminster Government's Bedroom Tax on over 300 of Tai Ceredigion's tenants. They say this will mean the loss of around £180,000 per annum in Housing Benefit income for Tai Ceredigion tenants and therefore the local economy.
The planned cap on increases in benefits over the next three years contained in the Government’s recent spending announcement will also mean further reductions in income for tenants (including private sector tenants) for the next three years.
“This is going to lead to increased rent arrears and an increase in evictions and homelessness at a time when homelessness and numbers on the Social Housing Register is already increasing sharply,” says Steve Jones.
“Last year Tai Ceredigion more than doubled the number of properties made available to the Council for use as temporary accommodation, from 20 to over 40, but there is a real danger that the Council will be forced to put families with young children back into bed and breakfast accommodation.
"This housing crisis is going from bad to worse and we have specialist staff currently advising all of our affected tenants on benefits, so that we can prepare them as best as possible for these major cuts to their already low incomes."
Tai Ceredigion has 2227 rented homes and 137 leasehold dwellings in the county. Its charitable status ensures that income can be ploughed back into improving tenants’ homes and running the housing service.