The Benefit System

Under Occupancy or is it a Bedroom Tax?

Under Occupancy or is it a Bedroom Tax?

The Under Occupancy Penalty/ Bedroom tax

The Under Occupancy Penalty (also called the ‘bedroom tax) is an adjustment to Housing Benefit which comes into effect next month. Under new rules, social housing tenants claiming Housing Benefit will be required to abide by more stringent rules to ensure that social housing stock is used more efficiently. Households with a single unused bedroom will have 14% of their Housing Benefit eligible rent withdrawn and households with two or more unused bedrooms will have 25% of their Housing Benefit eligible rent withdrawn.

Proponents claim that the reform will result in social housing stock being used more efficiently. They also claim that it is morally unjustifiable subsidise some households to live in houses with spare bedrooms when the English Housing Survey[1] estimates that 7% of social housing tenants live in overcrowded houses* and 1.85 million households are on local authority waiting lists[2]. The policy will also save more than £500 million a year[3].

Opponents claim that exemptions and safeguards remain too limited in spite of recent concessions by the government[4]. Opponents also argue that the predicted savings rely on families not changing houses, whereas the point of the reform is for families to avoid the penalty. Moreover, the penalty will be unavoidable for many as the number of overcrowded and under-utilised houses are not spread evenly geographically [5].

My questions are as follows:

Should there be more exemptions?
Is it moral to provide some households with a spare room subsidy? if no What about MP’s?
Are there other policies affordable in a time of austerity?

By Will Archdeacon

* Overcrowding was defined through this simple formula[5]. One bedroom for the parents then plus one bedroom for every two children under ten years old and every child over ten years old, with children aged 10-16 of the same gender expected to share and children aged below 10 expected to share regardless of gender.









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