I write in response to the article in last week’s Courier regarding the “Bedroom tax”
My sister and I live in Hebden Bridge and Todmorden. We are both pensioners and owner occupiers and have no need at this moment in time to rely on means tested benefit. However, our younger sister who has a number of health issues and lives in a council property in Sowerby Bridge has found herself having to look for alternative accommodation as she has three bedrooms and in accordance with this new legislation only needs one. None of us have any problems with this, although our sister has lived in her current property for 24 years her children have now left home and we all agree it is both necessary and beneficial (economically) for her to seek alternative accommodation. Furthermore, we appreciate there is a shortage nationally of three bedroomed properties in the Social Sector. The idea wouldn’t be so bad if there were an equal amount of 1, 2 and 3 three bedroomed properties but there just aren’t enough properties to re house all the people who need re housing under this new scheme. In order to obtain another home residents must bid on the “Keychoice” website on any day between Wednesday and Sunday and they can bid for as many properties as are deemed by Keychoice to be suitable with some exceptions. As our sister does not have a computer I have found myself in charge of the bidding and up to now it has been a fruitless search. We have been searching for properties from Sowerby Bridge to Todmorden since December Last week and this week alongside many other bidders we bid for only four suitable properties two of which were in Todmorden and Hebden Bridge whereby we had to prove there is a “family connection” in order for these to be processed. As the weeks drag on and the April deadline approaches our sister gets more fraught and anxious and we feel a sense of frustration as we climb what seems like an insurmountable mountain. The most worrying thing is that come April if we haven’t found a property Housing Benefit will be drastically cut and she will have to find 25 per cent of her rent which is about £28.00 per week out of her benefit of £71.00 per week. Now I am no mathematician but even I can work out that with utilities to be paid out of that there is little if anything left for food and clothing. We tried the swapping system but there is not even a slim chance that anyone will be moving from a three to a one bedroomed place. There are very few private one bedroomed homes coupled with the fact there is no security of tenure with a private landlord. Communications from Calderdale Council make it abundantly clear to their tenants that if the extra rent isn’t paid they will not hesitate to seek possession through the courts, thereby adding to the rising number of people who are already homeless in Calderdale. Furthermore, tenants who are in this situation get no help whatsoever from housing officers although helpful advice can be sought from Doorways. No doubt the housing officers will be there to dole out the possession notices when tenants find they cannot afford the increases! Finally, it needs to be mentioned that alongside those subject to bedroom tax there are many other people both young and elderly outside of this system looking for a home and trying to obtain social housing. Where does this leave them in the grand scheme of things? Will they have any priority at all or will they be at the back of a very long and endless queue! I have written this letter because I am angry that this is happening to so many people including a member of our family who does not have the capacity to deal with this on her own. It is unfair, its unjust and its clearly wrong and ill conceived. The concept is flawed because the figures don’t add up there aren’t enough homes to house all the people affected by this new legislation and it is bound to lead to a rapid rise in re-possessions and breakdown of family life. I urge as many people as possible to register their protest against this unfair system with their local councillors and by writing to Iain Duncan Smith the Minister for Welfare Reform.