'Bedroom tax' to leave hundreds of Derby Homes tenants facing an even bigger uphill battle to settle rent bills
NEARLY 300 Derby Homes tenants, who are already behind in their rent payments, also face taking a hit to their housing benefit when the Government makes its "bedroom tax" changes in April.
The figure has been revealed by the city council's social housing arm, which says it is "very concerned" about how the changes will affect its ability to collect rent.
From April, people in social housing with one spare bedroom in their home will face 14% reductions in their weekly housing benefit, rising to 25% for two or more spare bedrooms.
Maureen Davis, Derby Homes housing operations manager, said the organisation was helping people who wanted to move to a smaller property.
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But she said the situation was "particularly worrying" for tenants in rent arrears who did not want to move.
She said: "If they are unable to pay now, they are even more unlikely to be able to pay once the reforms kick in. We are concerned about tenants who are already in arrears and are contacting them – currently 287 – either personally or by letter to discuss the situation."
Derby Homes previously feared 3,000 of its tenants were under-occupying their homes but Mrs Davis said that figure was now more likely to be 1,800. One of those affected is Neil Fowkes, of Canterbury Street, Chaddesden, who lives in a three-bedroom home with his daughter and so has one spare room.
Mr Fowkes said he was in rent arrears but that he would pay the difference through other means as he refused to leave his home of 50 years.
He said: "This has been my home for so many years and I won't be forced out."
Mr Fowkes, who has diabetes, arthritis, and dementia, said he may have to cut down on his medical supplies to pay his rent as they were not fully funded by the NHS. He said he paid £400 every two months for sensors which monitored his 24-hour blood sugar levels. He said Derby Homes had asked him to start paying off his rent arrears straight away.
Mrs Davis said: "If Mr Fowkes and other tenants can't make payments towards their rent arrears now, how will they find the extra £10 to £14 a week in April?
"We have advised him that we would assist him if his preference is to move to a smaller property. Many other tenants are opting for this choice.
"Landlords providing social housing across the country are projecting a huge rise in rent arrears and are taking appropriate action to minimise this wherever possible."