In a disgraceful abuse of their charitable status, the Aragon Housing Association has produced a brightly coloured attack on the cut in the spare room subsidy – or "Bedroom Tax" as they dishonestly call it.
Shouldn't they be spending their time and money helping their tenants, rather than on self-indulgent and partisan political campaigning? Incidentally, it is high time the Government extending the spending requirements for councils to housing associations so we can keep track of how much money is siphoned off into propaganda.
Anyway, their document unintentionally provides some encouraging news. Of the 461 tenants on benefits and under-occupying, already 9% – 41 households – have downsized to smaller properties. They suggest this is a trivial number – "only 9% have actually moved to a smaller property in line with what the Government’s policy wants to achieve." This seems to me quite a lot after just 100 days. A couple of weeks ago the BBC gave a report in Manchester saying fewer than 3% of those affected had downsized. At what figure is the policy accepted as making a significant difference?
Anyway, downsizing is not the only thing the policy seeks to achieve. The paper notes:
Another main option for tenants affected by the Bedroom Tax is of course to find work or increase their hours worked.
If someone is prompted to get a job to avoid moving then that is welcome. Bedford has nearly a thousand job vacancies – of course there will be many more not officially notified.
I asked Aragon Housing Association what had happened to the 41 properties vacated. They have all been reoccupied by those on the Bedford Council waiting list and those of neighbouring authorities.
One went to a Band 1 priority (a family at risk of violence), another four to Band 2 (urgent need). Another 15 went to Band 3 – these are families in statutory overcrowding. Perhaps teenage children crammed in three or four to a bedroom, or sleeping on sitting-room floors. Or children sleeping in the same room as their parents in a one bedroom flat. Aragon Housing Association's spokesman describes them as "low need." Well that's one way of putting it.
There were also seven taken by families in Band 4 – not overcrowded, but pleased to vacate property for whatever reason. Perhaps it was a working couple in a one bedroom flat who were planning to start a family of the wife was already pregnant. They were willing to pay a higher rent for an extra room. Aragon says they are in "no need."
Then there were another 15 "mutual exchanges" – these may or may not have been tenants who were overcrowded before.
The cut in the spare room subsidy means that Aragon Housing Association's properties are being used more effectively, for those who need them most. They should stop sniping and help to make a success of it.