There’s been a lot of press this week on 100 days of the bedroom tax and its impact. The NHF highlighting the impact in the North West citing £21m lost income. Aragon taking the time, effort and presumably significant resource to produce a glossy brochure on the impact on its business (a £7,000 increase in arrears while 5 staff have been recruited to help people affected ‘budget’ better!) And then I see that a man slashed his throat in a job centre after complaining about the impact of the bedroom tax.
All this time, effort and negative impact on businesses, and most importantly, individuals, when all the time landlords have it in their power in one fell swoop to take away all misery and suffering it’s causing – as I’ve written in detail about elsewhere - by reclassifying properties. Simple. Change it from a 3 Bed to a 2 Bed for rent purposes and charge a lower rent. Or a 2 bed to a 1 bed. Some have done so. Why aren’t others following suit?
The housing sector is rightly very proud of its origins in the philanthropic Peabodys and Rowntrees, among others. Surely it makes business and philanthropic sense to simply reclassify homes and reduce the rent charge (even temporarily) in the circumstances?
What rational business would sit back and see £000’s being lost on rental income merely because the property is ‘hard to let’ because of the bedroom tax, or even consider demolition rather than just reduce the rent by a few £’s a week?
Does it make sense to employ 5 people to help with budgeting when those badly affected have no budget to speak of or hope of a move or work in the near future? Does it make business sense to spend £’s chasing arrears which you’ll never recover?
And what genuinely philanthropic business would see the physical and emotional human hardship and turmoil being caused by the bedroom tax, and choose not to act in the most simple manner to end that simply because ( as I’ve seen commented elsewhere) ‘we can’t allow rent policy to be dictated by government welfare policy’ or some notional fear of lenders not liking what they see. Especially with HA surpluses rising yet again for the last financial year. L&Q up to £100m. Home Group doubling to £64m. Hyde £25m. Riverside £22m. The reductions in rents by reclassifying properties and saying they have less bedrooms are a drop in the ocean compared to those levels.
Come on #ukhousing. Do that maths. Get creative. Don't do what you're told to do. Do what you know is right. Ask all of your tenants rather than your FD or your board what they would rather you do and give them some genuine options on where savings could be made elsewhere to keep services going , still maintain and improve existing stock , and deliver much needed smaller new homes for those affected to move into. I’m betting most would happily agree to their fellow tenants being given some reprieve on a ‘there but for the grace of god go I’ basis! And it needn't be permanent. Just give those affected some relief for a limited period at least while other options are worked through - lodgers, downsizing etc.
If I’m barking up the wrong tree, let me know. But if you’re a fellow housing professional, tenant or interested observer who feels the same, tweet away at #sayyestoreclassify!