They say only two things are certain – death and taxes. Another thing you can be fairly sure of is that the latest "bedroom tax" is likely to create a number of logistical problems for housing associations.
The Independent has reported that thousands of poorer pensioners will be hit, losing at least £300 a year if their homes are deemed to be “underoccupied”. Many housing associations are bracing themselves, and regional differences in rent mean that pensioners in the North will be hardest hit.
Reassuring elderly tenants and family members who may be caring for them will only be the first stage in managing the implications through, so it's time to start thinking about how to communicate with stakeholders about the likely impact, as well as how existing housing stock can be utilised to manage the situation.
Housing associations say that, in London and the South-east, the impact may not be severe, because the one-bedroom Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate is likely to be higher than the existing social housing rent charge. But across the rest of the country – where private rents are cheaper – the LHA cap is set much lower, in line with private rents, threatening tenants with big benefit cuts. Riverside Housing Association, which manages properties in most Northern cities, estimates that a quarter of its pensioner tenants will be hit, losing an average of £300 a year. However, that figure masks many tenants who will lose much more – including some in Carlisle faced with a loss of around £34 per week, or more than £1,700 per year. Hugh Owen, Riverside’s director of strategy, said the only option for many older people would be to move, yet smaller properties were in scarce supply. Furthermore, those smaller homes – often upper-floor flats without lifts – were completely unsuitable for pensioners, who also wanted family members to stay, had carers or needed separate bedrooms.